15 April 2019

Uganda: Courts Start Online Trial Sessions for Suspects

Kampala — The Judiciary will today commission video-conferencing technology that will enable suspects attend court proceedings while in prison.

Currently, suspects, especially on capital offences keep reporting to magistrates' courts for mention of their charges as police complete inquiries into the cases.

The technology, which will start in Kampala, will aid the mention of all criminal cases at Buganda Road Chief Magistrate's Court involving suspects on remand in Luzira prison.

"Buganda Road Court will also handle related cases on behalf of the magistrate's courts of Makindye, Nakawa, Nabweru, Law Development Centre (LDC), Kira, City Hall, Nateete/Rubaga, Luzira, Kasangati and the Anti-Corruption Court," the Judiciary said in the statement yesterday.

Chief Justice Bart Katureebe is expected to operationalise two virtual courts that have been set up in Luzira upper prison male wing and another in the women's wing.

Mr Moses Sentalo, the officer-in-charge of Luzira upper prison, applauded the new development.

"The system will save us the costs involved in the back and forth transportation of prisoners to courts as well as the stress that comes with moving high risk inmates," the statment quotes Mr Sentalo.

"Imagine transporting one inmate to court requires five prison officers handling different roles; driver, gunman, orderly, warder and supervisor," he adds.

The conferencing facilities were recently installed at Luzira and Buganda Road Court in Kampala.

Mr James Saaka, the National Information Technology Authority (NITA) executive director, said the facility is designed to connect the courts beyond the geographical boundaries to provide faster administration of justice.

He said recordings from all court sessions will be safely kept in the National Backbone Infrastructure at the National Data Centre.

After leading a technical inspection team to Buganda Road Chief Magistrate's Court, NITA and Luzira prisons last week, Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire of Court of Appeal and the chair of the Judiciary's Technology Committee, said the facilities were satisfactory.

"Uganda is the first country in East Africa to set up courts inside a prison. Judiciary's strategy is to revolutionalise how justice is dispensed," the judiciary statement quotes Justice Kiryabwire as saying.

"We are moving courts from buildings to services that are available to Ugandans who need them...People should be coming to the physical courts only for trials," he added.

Pros of video facilities

-Lower costs of prisons operations since preliminary stages of cases can be handled online.

-Minimise risks of transporting high profile prisoners.

-Ease access to information during court sessions - document sharing/storage will be electronic and will be accessed remotely.

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