The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) has launched child friendly rooms at its regional offices in Kabale, Mbarara and Masaka.
The launch of the child friendly room in Kabale took place on Wednesday 19th May 2021, presided over by Hon. Justice Moses Kazibwe, the Resident Judge of Kabale, who was the Chief Guest.
The launch of the Mbarara and Masaka child friendly rooms took place today 20th May 2021, presided over by Ms. Rachael Odoi, the Senior Technical Advisor, Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS).
In the course of its work, the ODPP encounters children who come into contact with the law as child victims of crime, child witnesses to crime, and children in conflict with the law (juvenile offenders).
Therefore, it is the duty of the
prosecutors in the ODPP to prepare child victims and witnesses so that their
voices can be heard in judicial proceedings.
Speaking at the event, the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr.Vincent Wagona noted that previously prosecutors faced numerous challenges when preparing children for court because some of the children would get timid, freak out or simply keep quiet when asked to narrate their ordeals in open spaces with adults.
It became very difficult to get any evidence of child witnesses and some
of the cases would be lost in court as a result.
Mr. Wagona further observed that a couple of ODPP trainings with Children at Risk Action Network (CRANE), an organisation that deals with children,
revealed that children needed child friendly environments to be able to open up and tell their stories during judicial proceedings, resulting in the birth of child friendly rooms.
Mr. Wagona further said that with support from the Children at Risk Action
Network (CRANE), the ODPP launched its first ever child friendly room at the
head office. Subsequently, the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) has
supported the roll out of these rooms to the ODPP regional offices, for which the
ODPP is very grateful.
He also appreciated the Department of Gender, Children and Sexual Offences headed by the Assistant DPP, Samali Wakooli, for their efforts towards the establishment of the rooms.
These rooms are used as reception and holding spaces for child victims,
witnesses before their appearance in court, preparation rooms for victims and witnesses for court, by the prosecutors, interview rooms for child victims and witnesses, therapeutic rooms for emotional healing, rooms for child offenders in the event that there is need for them to come to the ODPP and rooms for children who are at risk and may be in need of advice and support.
Indeed, with the creation of these rooms, it has come to light that the children who are prepared for court in this kind of environment tend to give better evidence in court thus reducing on the number of cases lost due to failure of children to testify.
“More cases can now be successfully prosecuted because children can now easily tell their ordeals.” said Ms. Faith Kembabazi, the Executive Director, CRANE.
Ms. Rachael Odoi, the Senior Technical Advisor, JLOS, observed that
international law and practice emphasize promotion of child friendly procedures in the justice system whereby children who come into contact with the law, as victims of crime, witnesses of crime or those in conflict with the law, are supposed to be treated with dignity, and respect. They require that in handling cases which involve children, the children’s best interests should be a primary consideration and they should be treated in a child friendly manner.
On behalf of JLOS, she pledged their continued support to the ODPP in promoting good practices that enhance access to justice for all.
“JLOS looks forward to entrenching the child friendly procedures and practices in all institutions that deal with children in their daily work,” she said.
Justice Moses Kazibwe appreciated the initiative of the child friendly room in
the ODPP and the institutions involved. He advocated for the other institutions
in the justice chain handling children; the Judiciary and the Uganda Police Force to benefit from the initiative.