- Prosecutors and judges are forced to work under intense pressure to prematurely move several cases quickly through the system, something that affects the efficiency of judicial officers
- Plea-bargain also reduces case backlog in courts and time wastage and costs of travels to courts
- Some community members have now embraced plea bargain since it was launched at Arua High Court two years ago
By Ronald Orachwun
Nebbi- The Arua High court judge Justice Anthony Oyuk Ojok has urged community members in West Nile to embrace plea-bargain in order to reduce case backlog in courts and relieve judicial officers from work load that leads to brain drain.
Plea-bargain is an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or “no contest” in exchange for an agreement by the prosecutor to drop one or more charges, reduce a charge to a less serious offense or recommend to the judge a specific sentence acceptable to the defense.
Justice Oyuk Ojok says criminal courts and prisons in West Nile region like Koch prisons in Nebbi Sub county have become overcrowded including suspects of minor offenses, putting a threat on these rehabilitation facilities.
Two years ago, the Deputy Chief Justice launched Plea-bargain program in Arua where communities are encouraged to take up the program in order to ensure justice is done for them.
The Nebbi chief magistrate, Mr David Sayuni says the judicial officers in the Nebbi magisterial area of Pakwach, Nebbi and Zombo are grappling with high case backlog.
He says there are currently 281 cases of appeal before the chief magistrate, 268 cases before the Grade one magistrate while 209 cases are currently before the grade two magistrate, something that is currently piling pressure on judicial officers in the area.
He urges community to consider reconciliation and village level mediations such that minor cases which would have congested Police and prison cells are curtailed.
Mr Sayunu also attributes the high case backlog on some judicial officers who unnecessarily adjourn court proceedings.
“There are court sessions which you don’t need to adjourn, but you will find a legal practitioner who will forcibly do it due to hang over, maybe because of a family brawl or maybe they are broke. I wonder what some of us are doing in the profession.”
Justice Richard Buteera the chairperson of the Case Backlog Monitoring Committee in the Judicial Service Commission decried the current case backlog in the judiciary.
In the 2017/18 Financial Year, at least 120,000 cases were targeted for disposal.
In his report to the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, Justice Richard Buteera recommends that presiding judicial officers especially judges with more than 15 cases pending judgement should not take on any new cases unless the ongoing ones are completed.