We Might Need a Separate Prison for Debtors – Principal Judge Bamwiine Overwhelmed

The High Court Principal Judge, seek Dr. Yorokamu Bamwine has appealed to courts of law to embrace alternative ways of settling disputes such as plea bargaining so as to reduce the case backlog in Uganda.

He expressed concern over the excessive number of prisoners who have overstayed in prison without trial many of whom are accused of minor offences. This, he says is not only unjust but also has far reaching implications on the country’s pubic resources.

“I’m embarrassed seeing debtors mixed up with criminals. We may just set up a prison for debtors. Let’s not be so eager to send civil debtors to prison but instead, have their property advertised for attachment,” said the Principal Judge.

In Nyamushekyera prison alone, Bushenyi 49 inmates are in jail on accusation of being civil debtors. 12 of these are female while 37 are males. On Thursday, inmates presented a memorandum to the Principal Judge decrying their extremely long remand term.

The Mbarara Resident Judge, Hon. Justice Duncan Gaswaga assured them that a trial session will be held in July. Bamwiine directed that all cases filed in 2011 appear in the July criminal session.

The Principal Judge further asked courts to dismiss cases where witnesses are missing instead of holding them accused in prisons.

“Ordinary trials are time consuming and cost the Judiciary over Ugshs 1M. Plea bargaining is quick and it costs us about Ugshs 300,000,” Justice Bamwiine said.

Justice Bamwiine noted that despite the financial and human resource inadequacies facing the justice system, the judiciary is still committed to execute swift justice.

He was in Bushenyi to advocate for plea bargaining as an alternative method of reducing the case backlog in Uganda. The program which is voluntary will only benefit for first time offenders. A total of 40 inmates at Nyamushekyera will take part in the plea-bargaining session that is slated to commence tomorrow, Friday in Bushenyi.

Plea bargaining is an agreement between defendant and prosecutor where the former agrees to plead guilty to some or all of the charges against them in exchange for concessions from the prosecutors.


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