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PLEA BARGAIN: More than 200 cases settled in Gulu

Chief Justice Owiny Dollo launches the plea bargaining camp at Gulu main prison.

Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A total of 212 criminal cases have been completed and settled during the plea bargaining camp at Gulu main prison, Gulu city.

The plea bargaining camp started on Monday last week and lasted five days. The completed cases include 153 capital offenders from the Gulu and Lira High Courts and 60 from the lower courts.

Ntalo Nassuru Hussein, the Gulu High Court Deputy Registrar said on Saturday that more than 500 remand inmates from Gulu and Lira High Courts had applied for plea bargaining.

The beneficiaries include 115 capital offenders from Gulu, Kitgum, Lamwo, Pader, Nwoya, Amuru, and Patongo who are accused of rape, aggravated defilement, and murder.

Plea bargaining is the negotiated agreement between the prosecution and accused person pleading guilty in exchange for a lenient sentence or lesser charge.

Plea bargaining will continue to be encouraged in the country after the five-day camp.

The Gulu main prison plea bargaining camp was supported by Pepperdine University, a private research university affiliated with Churches of Christ in California.

Danny DeWalt, the Pepperdine University Vice President and Chief of Staff told URN during an interview from Gulu city on Saturday that sixty-six remand inmates on simple cases were released during the five days plea bargaining session.

He explains that the judicial officials said that some of the cases lacked evidence while some of the inmates had already served some time on remand.

Jim Gash, the President of Pepperdine University says plea bargaining was introduced in Uganda in 2014 in collaboration with partners to ensure fair, swift, and efficient access to the judicial system among Ugandan prisoners.

Gash explains that the delay between arrest and resolution of cases to full trial was unacceptably long and they sought assistance on how to expedite justice fairly.

The promotion of plea bargaining is being supported in Uganda by Pepperdine University’s Global Justice Institute.

During the plea bargaining launch on Monday, Chief Justice Owiny Dollo explained that plea bargaining was introduced in Uganda’s judicial system with the support of Pepperdine University due to several reasons including a lack of judicial resources, and issues of case backlog in developing countries.

Pepperdine University through the initiative partners with the Ugandan judiciary to implement plea bargaining, and train key stakeholders around the country on its application.

Besides financing the courses, Pepperdine University also provides accused individuals with attorneys.

The presiding justices included Alex Ajiji Mackaythe, Gulu High Court Resident Judge and Justice Damalie Lwanga.

Speaking during the plea bargaining launch on Monday, Jane Frances Abodo, the Director of Public Prosecutions disclosed that ten suspects were exonerated from benefiting from the plea bargaining camp due to the lack of evidence in their cases.

Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo said that plea bargaining offers quicker and equitable justice that the regular courts could not easily render. He disclosed that plea bargaining has since its launch in 2014 seen 35,000 remand inmates convicted.

Justice Alex Mackay Ajiji, the Resident Judge of Gulu High Court notes that plea bargaining is a relief to case backlog, and ensures speedy judgment.

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