Breaking

DPP, Principal Judge Want Uganda Prisons Services To Manage Minor Offenders

Abodo, who before her appointment as DPP was a High Court Judge in the Criminal Division, says that the situation in some remand homes is tatamount “to child abuse.” Since local governments and ministry of gender decry low funding for the remand homes, Abodo says that child offenders are better off being managed by Uganda Prisons Services.
(L-R) Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, the minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs chatting with Robert Kotchani, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Country Representative in Uganda after the forum meeting

Audio 5

 

The Director for Public Prosecutions, Jane Frances Abodo and the Principal Judge, Dr. Justice Flavian Zeija want Uganda Prisons Services to manage child offenders due to the deplorable conditions in the remand homes.            

    

Abodo and Zeija made the proposal during the third stakeholders Forum on Law and Administration of Justice held under the theme, "Responding to Citizen's Justice Needs".

The forum, organised by the Judicial Service Commission, took place on Friday. It is a platform for citizens and agencies in the justice, law and order sector to discuss issues and make recommendations.  

One of the key issues discussed in the forum was about remand homes.      

Uganda has four remand homes in Gulu, Mbale, Fort Portal and Kampala (Naguru). The juveniles found guilty are sent to Kampiringisa National Rehabilitation Centre in Mpigi.    

Each remand home has close to 200 child offenders, while Kampiringisa receives an average of one thousand children who are in conflict with the law. The commonest offences are robbery, aggravated defilement and theft.    

  

However, Abodo has decried the deplorable conditions at these remand homes. As a result, she says children's justice needs are not being met under the current legal system.                     

She cited the example of 30 juvenile offenders who escaped early this year from the remand home in Gulu municipality due to lack of food.                   

//Cue in: “When I read…                 

Cue out:…some other conditions.”//      

        

Abodo, who before her appointment as DPP was a High Court Judge in the Criminal Division, says that the situation in some remand homes is tantamount “to child abuse.”                       

Since local governments and ministry of gender decry low funding for the remand homes, Abodo says that child offenders are better off being managed by Uganda Prisons Services.           

//Cue in: “The conditions under…                       

Cue out:….is really deploring.”//                                         

Zeija agrees with Abodo, based on what he observed at the remand home in Mbale last year.                       

//Cue in:"I visited Mbale...                 

Cue out:..situation will improve."//                     

However, Robert Kotchani, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Country Representative in Uganda, says the key stakeholders should instead improve conditions in the remand homes.               

//Cue in: “We all agree…                     

Cue out:…belong to prison.”//                     

The Children’s Act, amended in 2016, also provides that “no child shall be remanded in custody in an adult prison.”  

 

Zeija later clarified that Uganda Prisons Services can supervise the detention centres, not prisons necessarily, for minor offenders and that experts on children affairs can be recruited in the prisons.      

Meanwhile, Julius Mwebembezi, Registrar in the Directorate of Planning, Research and Inspections at Judicial Service Commission, noted that the justice needs of persons with disabilities are also not being met.    

Mwebembezi noted that persons with disabilities including those with hearing and physical impairments need access to court premises and services.      

He says sign interpreters must be provided and there is need to renovate court premises  because only a few courts have ramps. He adds that since 2017 when the first stakeholders’ forum was held, citizens have complained about the huge case backlog, endless adjournments of cases and corruption amongst judicial officers  and court clerks.      

Meanwhile, the judicial officers need better working terms and conditions, security both at work at home among others.    

Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, the Chief Justice however says that recruiting more judicial officers will address most of the issues that hamper the delivery of justice in Uganda.           

The judiciary is expected to have 532 Grade I magistrates, 100 Chief Magistrate and 82 High Court Judges. However, there are 258 unfilled positions at Grade I level, 46 at Chief Magistrate and 26 in the High court.            

Owiny-Dollo however says the High Court should have at least 150 judges to serve the over 40 million Ugandans.        

//Cue in: “If by the…          

Cue out:…the ordinary person.”//                  

Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu is urging judicial officers to be independent, especially now that the electoral season has kicked off in the country.