Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo yesterday (20th June) opened up a plea bargain camp for the Acholi and Lango sub-regions at a ceremony held at Gulu Main prison as the Judiciary continues to step up efforts to reduce case backlog and improve efficiency.
The plea bargain camp which will last a week, the Chief Justice said, is intended to accelerate the expedition of Justice in the Acholi and Lango sub-regions.
Atleast 500 cases from the High Court circuits of Gulu and Lira are expected to be handled during the process, the Judiciary said.
Under plea bargain, persons accused of committing crime are allowed to negotiate how their cases should be concluded but typically plea bargain results in lenient sentences for the accused.
The prosecution in order to save time, reduce case load, save resources and increase the conviction rate trades off lenient sentences or reduced charges for an accused’s guilty plea.
It is a “mechanism for decongesting prisons,” the Chief Justice said.
Over 3500 persons have been removed from remand to conviction in the last 5 years that plea bargain has been implemented in Uganda.
Speaking at the event, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Jane Frances Abodo lauded inmates for participating in the plea bargaining process but was quick to point out that the inmates shouldn’t mistake plea bargain for forgiveness.
She emphasised that plea bargain still entails punishment and the goal remains to dispense Justice.
Abodo highlighted that it is not up to the inmates to determine their sentences but rather their prosecutors.
During this plea bargain camp, Gulu Resident Judge, Alex Ajiji Mackay and the plea bargain focal Judge Jane Okuo will handle capital offences while Magistrates from the two circuits will handle petty offences.