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Inadequate Remand Homes Delaying Justice for Juvenile Offenders :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Inadequate Remand Homes Delaying Justice for Juvenile Offenders

The report shows that overall, the courts closed with a pending caseload of 156,349 cases, of which 42,960 were backlogged. A case is considered backlog after more than two years in the court system without being concluded.
21 Oct 2023 08:54
Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo

Audio 2

The absence of Remand Homes in most districts in the country has led to delays in the disposal of Juvenile cases, according to the Judiciary Annual Performance Report for the financial year 2022/2023.

The report, a requirement under the Administration of the Judiciary Act, 2020 requires the Chief Justice to account to the public the performance of the Judiciary and distribute copies of the sector's annual performance report to the President and the Speaker of Parliament every financial year.  

Launched on Friday by Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, this year's report shows that the absence of remand homes in the majority of the districts has also caused an inevitable breach of the well-intended provisions of the Children Act and other laws. 

According to the Chief Justice, the high costs of transport to the courts have inevitably caused congestion in the remand homes and exacerbated delays in case trials.

//Cue in; "The glaring absence...

Cue out...the case trial."//

However, the report shows that the Judiciary has experienced steady growth in the number of completed cases from 156,875 cases in the financial year 2020/21 to 205,967 cases in the financial year 2021/22 and 266,323 cases in the financial year 2022/2023.

The report shows that overall, the courts closed with a pending caseload of 156,349 cases, of which 42,960 were backlogged.  A case is considered backlog after more than two years in the court system without being concluded.

Owiny-Dollo observed that the enhanced performance in case disposal was achieved through initiatives such as plea-bargaining, mediation, small claims procedures, daily hearings of cases under the Criminal Division, and special sessions for Gender and Sexual-Based Violence –SGBV cases.

According to the report, a total number of 22,092 cases were completed through the Small Claims Procedure recovering claims of a total value of 16.4 billion Shillings as compared to 11.1 billion Shillings realized in the financial year 2020/21.  

Another 1,250 cases were mediated to a conclusion out of the 2,210 cases enrolled under the mediation scheme and 2,857 cases were completed through plea bargaining at the High Court level, while 1,160 cases were completed through the day-to-day hearing of cases.

In addition, the report re-echoed the plans to have Regional Courts of Appeal so that appeal cases from High Courts are resolved at the regional level in a bid to reduce the cost of accessing justice. Currently, there is only one Court of Appeal which is housed in Kampala.

On the Promotion of equal opportunities to reduce vulnerability, the report shows that so far,  the Judiciary has created children and victim-friendly rooms in nine courts and they also intend to have plans to scale up the same and other interventions such as having in place adequate sign language interpreters in courts and access to braille services for people (litigants) with special needs.

The report shows that, in the next financial year, the judiciary will prioritise the amendment of the Magistrates Courts Act to enhance the civil jurisdiction of Magistrates Courts to handle disputes of an enhanced value consistent with the current economic trends and inflationary levels in the country. 

This, the Chief Justice said will help fight case backlog and delays in delivery of justice. Magistrates currently are restricted to handling cases whose subject value is not more than 50 million Shillings.

//Cue in; Digitalization of courts...

Cue out...the power shortage."//

On the priority list also is reviewing the High Court Circuits Instrument 2016 to increase the number of High Court Circuits across the regions. This, the report shows, will give rise to the creation of 10 new High Court Circuits at Nebbi, Kitgum, Apac, Kumi, Rakai, Bushenyi, Kasese Kitgum, Kiboga, Pallissa and other deserving places, to alleviate the severe inhibitions to access to High Court services in those areas. 

They also want to buy a marine boat for accessing the hard-to-reach areas on islands such as Buvuma and Kalalangala and also increase their fleet of vehicles.

The report further shows that they have embarked on developing a Judgment Writing Tool that will have access to the different laws and authorities with a designed easy-to-use template.

It is expected to contribute to the efficient and effective reduction of case backlog by lessening the time it would take judicial officers to write their judgments and rulings. In his speech at the same event, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Nobert Mao conveyed his appreciation to the Judiciary for making the ministry proud and also applauded the Chief Justice for being a good team leader.

“Do not mind the reactionaries and do not give attention to petty fights, we are all a team of rivals but it can win depending on the team captain. That is why we must support the Chief Justice. It is natural for people to be negative but it is important to celebrate some of these wins “, said Mao.

The Judiciary has been able to achieve all it did in the past financial year with a budget of   390 billion Shillings courtesy of the government of Uganda.  

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