Judiciary starts daily hearing of criminal cases

hearing of criminal cases

The Judiciary has started a two-year pilot study to hear criminal cases at the High Court level on a daily basis.

This is opposed to the current system where the High court has been hearing criminal cases in special sessions.

The Judiciary has been conducting at least three special criminal sessions each year where each Judge would hear 40 cases in a marathon.

However, the judiciary has found that this strategy is partly responsible for the increasing case backlog and late delivery of justice as a result of poor coordination among players in the administration of justice such as the Directorate of Public Prosecutions-DPPs, Uganda Prisons, Police and lawyers.

Addressing a consultative meeting of players in the administration justice in Kampala on Monday, Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, revealed that the concept of hearing Criminal Cases daily is one of the Case Backlog Reduction Interventions in their efforts to eliminate the case backlog.

Buteera indicated that the Judiciary’s Case Backlog Committee, which he heads has been closely working with the Criminal Division on this concept and pledges support to the Division to make sure that the project is successful.

According to Buteera, the intervention will be piloted only at the Criminal Division of the High Court, and the lessons learned out of the 2-year pilot program will inform and guide the rollout of the program to other High Court Circuits.

He called upon the stakeholders to wholesomely embrace the pilot program and give it their best, saying that its success will largely depend on the stakeholders especially when they promote good communication, coordination, and cooperation.

Speaking at the same event, the head of the Criminal Division, Justice Michael Elubu noted that the concept is aimed at ensuring quick delivery of Justice at the High Court Criminal Division and it will adequately safeguard the rights of the constitution.

Commenting about the project, officials from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, said that they do not have any problem with it but they have issues with limited facilitation yet they spend a lot of money to execute their mandate.

They demanded additional facilitation if the program is to be implemented effectively.

In his response, Justice Buteera indicated that the Judiciary doesn’t have an extra budget for this project but it is going to use their normal budget, adding that the only thing that has changed is that the hearing of cases is to be done differently.

High Court Judge Margaret Mutoni also noted that if the program is to succeed, the Judiciary has to assist the DPP to get better facilitation, saying that in September 2021, she had a special criminal session, which flopped because State Attorneys failed to show up due to lack of facilitation.

She also revealed that Uganda Prisons was also bringing suspects to court late because of their poor transport means.

Justice Tadeo Asiimwe agreed with Justice Mutoni’s submission, saying that most of the time in cases in upcountry courts delay to start purportedly due to the breakdown of the prison trucks or buses yet the actual problem is lack of fuel.

The Uganda Law Society through their Vice President, Diana Angwech expressed gratitude to the Judiciary, saying that the system was going to be fair and expeditious.

Angwech noted that previously people were staying longer on remand and serving longer periods than what is provided for in the law, arguing that daily hearings will help improve trust among the people they dispense justice to.

In November 2016, then Chief Justice Bart Katureebe set up a Case Backlog Reduction Committee to address increasing numbers of unresolved cases in the justice system, identify the extent of the backlog and make recommendations to address the existing backlog and stop the growth of a new backlog.

One of the recommendations that were later made in 2017 by the Committee headed by Justice Buteera was to start hearing criminal cases on a daily basis as opposed to the special sessions.

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