The issue: Prisons congestion
Our view: No one deserves to stay in jail for a crime they did not commit. While the law has to take its course, everything must be done to ensure that the innocent are freed and this includes disposing of cases in good time.
Justice delayed is justice denied.” This common saying among the legal fraternity is sadly the case for many people languishing in prisons across the country. According to the 2015 National Court Census, 114,809 cases had not been disposed of.
One in every four had been pending for more than a decade. One of the consequences of this is that the country’s prisons are congested.
During a conference in June, the Commissioner General of Prisons, Dr Johnson Byabashaija, told judicial officers and prosecutors that Uganda has the highest percentage of inmates on remand in East Africa.
Dr Byabashaija revealed shocking statistics when he said that Uganda has 52 per cent remand inmate population against the 47.1 per cent, who are convicts.
More than half of its occupants are on remand. There are many different cases for those on remand. Stories are told of how young men are arrested for being idle and disorderly.
A case, which should take days to resolve, instead takes years to be disposed of. A young man ends up wasting precious time in jail. Stories are also told of how people are rounded up after a murder or robbery has occurred.
Even where there is no evidence tying these people to the case, they are thrown into jail and they remain there for years, many times with no hope for coming out soon.
No one deserves to stay in jail for a crime they did not commit. While the law has to take its course, everything must be done to ensure that the innocent are freed and this includes disposing of cases in good time.
This is why the orders by the heads in the Judiciary are welcome. Chief Justice Bart Katureebe has asked retiring judges and registrars to stop taking new cases. When they are left with six months to retire, they should not take on any new cases.
The Principal Judge, Mr Yorokamu Bamwine, also asked retiring judges to take on only cases that they can be able to complete by the end of their tenure. In addition to these directives, the judiciary has asked each high court judge to handle 300 cases per year and expand the high courts’ circuit from 14 to 20.
Plus, alternative ways to resolve cases such as the use of plea bargain, are being tested. The judiciary should ensure to implement these directives and they should receive support to do so.