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Experts Tip Judges on Sentencing Children, Disabled

David Basangwa, a Mental Health Expert, says 25 percent of the people in the country have some form of mental illness.
President Museveni, Chief Justice Katureebe and Minister Otafire with judges at the conference

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Declan O'Callaghan, an expert in International Law and Barrister in United Kingdom has cautioned Ugandan judges to exercise the highest level of care when sentencing women, children and the disabled. He notes that there is a great danger in dealing with vulnerable groups like children unless judges extra care.

 

 

While presenting a paper on sentencing guidelines during the week long annual judge's conference att Speke Resort Munyonyo on Wednesday, Declan said when sentencing a child, the temptation is to look at the offence and give an amount of time for the offender to serve and recommend rehabilitation in the future.

He however, says it is important to consider the period of the child's life like Puberty and other conflicts within a child that are not well developed. Declan says that in giving the minor longer sentences, judges risk punishing over and above where they understand their behavior and are able to control it more.

He argues that when incarcerated, a child looses the time to get that self understanding and realization. Declan says for instance handing a 14-year-old teenager a 14 year jail term isn't recommended.

 

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The sentencing guidelines for child offenders require court to consider the degree of participation of the child, best interests of the child, protection of the community from harm, rehabilitation of the child and personal safety of individuals. The guidelines provide detention as the last resort, but only if it is considered the appropriate sentence.

 

Declan says judges should exercise care in dealing with persons who are disabled. He says in circumstances when an offender is deaf, consideration can be made for how long he can spend in prison without communicating with people.

 

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On Women, Declan says Uganda has wonderful guidelines on considering the care giver but this isn't being implemented by courts.

 

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David Basangwa, a Mental Health Expert, says 25 percent of the people in the country have some form of mental illness. He however, notes that the mental illness prevalence in prisons stands between 30-60%, which is higher than the national average, a sign that not much is being done to help in sentencing people with mental health problems.

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