Plea Bargaining As A Response To Challenges In The Criminal Justice System In Uganda, Will It Work?
This was the theme of yesterday’s discussion organised by the Public Interest Law Clinic In the School of Law.
Hon. Justice Mike Chibita, the Director Public Prosecutions (DPP) was guest speaker at a public dialogue that drew participation from a cross section of personalities that included Professors of Law, Lecturers and students.
While explaining the concept of Plea Bargaining, Hon. Justice Mike CHibita said this is a system that has been put in place where accused persons are enabled to bargain for a plea. He said plea bargaining will and is already working in addressing some of the pressing challenges in the judicial system that include case backlogs, high costs, delays, and more.
He explained that in Uganda, One Hundred Fifty cases are registered annually although the number of prosecutors is only Three Hundred spread out through One hundred stations all over the country. He said much as the best practice is for one prosecutor to handle one file a week, the reality is that many more are handled.
He said the judiciary is faced with a case back log partly because of such challenges of limitations in both human and financial resources.
He said much as all people awaiting trial are entitled legal representation by the state, Ninety nine percent will actually rely on this because they cannot afford other advocates.
He said in other countries like the US, public defenders and legal aid service providers get dispensation from Government to represent such people. Its against this background, he said, that Plea bargaining comes in.
If one has committed a crime and is willing to take responsibility and plead guilty of the offenses, they are fast tracked.
He said the Plea bargaining pilot has score eitghty percent success rate. He said it tool a day for instance to ple brgain a case against the usual prosecution case lag for years.
As a result, he said it helped in reducing costs in forms of time , finances as well as Human resources.
He however explained some of the challenges experienced in the process of implementing plea bargaining in the court system that include shotage of resources, and the limitations arising from the fact that the implementers are learning on the job.