The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) has, in its additional measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, directed prosecutors to consider whether a ‘triable’ offence under the law has been committed before prosecuting cases related to the pandemic particularly disobedience of lawful orders ( section 117 of the Penal Code Act), common nuisance ( section 160) and commission of a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease ( section 171).
In a communique of the measures, Justice Jane Frances Abodo, the DPP, further directed that prosecutors do not oppose the grant of bail to persons accused of violating government rules put in place against the deadly virus. Prosecutors should also ” ensure that inquiries are complete before sanctioning any charges ”
” Sanction all cases where there is sufficient evidence against each of the suspects but avoid sanctioning charges where the evidence is insufficient ” the DPP said.
The DPP also directed prosecutors to compile case files and forward them to the prosecutorial body’s headquarters for review.
The new measures come against a backdrop of heightened concerns about the criminal justice system during the pandemic and criticism of the DPP’s handling of cases that have arisen or extended into the coronavirus pandemic in light of social distancing rules and therefore the need to decongest the country’s prison facilities in order to guarantee the safety of accused persons.
Early this month, a Lawyer was arrested for insult after he described the DPP as a “rotten tomato” when charges of disobedience of lawful orders were slapped against Mityana MP Francis Zaake Butebi for allegedly distributing food to vulnerable members of his constituency.
The Office of the DPP has constantly been notorious for sanctioning trumped up charges without watertight evidence, if any at all, and many are charges courts have thrown out for being bad in law and motivated by political considerations and bad faith.
Describing the new measures as a “good start,” Human Rights Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo said via his twitter handle that: ” If this is extended beyond the pandemic and becomes a new rule, it will be a good start, prevent overcrowding in cells & violations of pre-trial detention rights. It will also be a marked departure from the antiquated & rights-violating system of file sanctioning”