Gov’t Cuts Deals with Remanded Murderers ,Rapists

If you are charged a serious crime and you know in your heart that you committed it, then you are welcome to cut a deal and quickly regain your freedom.

With the government anxious to decongest its prisons and reduce on the case backlog that is overwhelming the understaffed and underfunded judiciary, offenders who include killers and defilers now just need to plead guilty, help prosecution to nail their accomplices and then walk free after being given small sentences.

But if you know you are innocent and were wrongly charged, you are strongly warned not to taking advantage of the deal offer and must remain on remand praying that the slow system will sooner than later establish your innocence.

This week, the top bosses of the judiciary have been selling the deals to hundreds of inmates in northern Uganda and the response has been simply overwhelming. This year’s round of the deals called Plea Bargaining in the legal system was launched at Gulu Main Prisons by none other than the Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo himself, exciting hundreds of guys who are facing long sentences and the death penalty, knowing that they committed the crimes but are now likely to serve short sentences if they admit their sins.

From Gulu and Lira courts, over 400 hundred suspects applied for plea bargaining and of these, some 115 are charged with capital offences like murder and rape. The mass lenience exercise has had an average of 35 cases being disposed of daily.

But Jane Francis Abodo, the Director of Public Prosecutions who was personally present at the launch, strongly warned any innocent persons being charged with crimes they did not commit, not try to get freedom by pleading guilty. This tendency by innocent people to claim they are guilty to be saved from the lengthy remand used to bother the champion of plea bargaining in Uganda, former Principle Judge Yorakamu Bamwine. He used to go around prisons convincing innocent people to be patient and wait in prison as the government tries to recruit more judicial officers to give them speedy trial.

This week in Gulu -the Chief Justice lauded the plea bargaining exercise as it will offer quicker and equitable justice that could not be rendered normally in courts, and it will also decongest prisons, prevent case backlogs, save time, and save government expenditure on inmates due to reduced numbers of inmates. 

CJ Owiny Dollo reveled since it started in 2014, plea bargaining has helped clear 35,000 cases. This year alone it has seen over a thousand 652 capital offenders get light sentences in Mbarara, Masindi, and Kitalya Prisons.

But the Chief Justice urged the plea bargaining presiding judges to ensure the involvement of victims and complainants in the process to help arrive at equitable and equal access to justice.

As of this week, there are 70,300 people locked up in all Uganda’s prisons, 35,878 – more than half of them on remand. Still half of these – 17,869 are on capital offences. They are encouraged to plead guilty and get light sentences.

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