Uganda Prisons has welcomed the new video conferencing system launched on Monday by the judiciary.
Speaking at the function, the Commissioner General of Prisons, Dr.Johnson Byabashaija said they have been using a lot of money in transporting inmates to and from court, noting that with the new virtual courts, this money can be saved.
“I expect to significantly reduce the costs of transporting inmates to court because every year we use about Shs 1.7 billion for fuel and maintenance yet it is only half of what is required,” Byabashaija said in Luzira.
According to the prisons spokesperson, Frank Baine, the initiative will go a long way in easing access to justice by inmates before trial as well as being a security measure.
“Security threats while transporting inmates will be minimised whereas dangerous offenders will be controlled as the inmates remain free in prison,”Baine said.
He noted that many courtrooms are too small for some cases and cannot accommodate witnesses, suspects and other members of the public, noting that the initiative will go a long way in addressing it.
“The ultimate goal of e-governance will now be achieved,” he added.
The new technology is designed to aid the mentioning of all criminal cases at Buganda Road Court involving accused persons on remand in Luzira Prison before their cases are fixed for trial.
Buganda Road Court will also handle related cases on behalf of the Magistrates Courts of Makindye, Nakawa, Nabweru, Law Development Centre (LDC), Kira, City Hall, Nateete, Rubaga, Luzira, Kasangati and the Anti-Corruption Court according to the judiciary.
The Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe underscored the role of the new initiative that he said is a testimony to what Information and Communication Technology can do.
“Currently there are about 372 prisoners on remand at Luzira Prison whose cases need mention with courts in the Kampala, Mpigi and Mukono Magisterial areas. The logistical burden of delivering these prisoners just for a short mention need not be overemphasised,”Katureebe said.
“With just a single judicial officer at Buganda Road, a good number of these mentions can be aggregated before a single magistrate linked by video to prisoners in Luzira prison.”
He noted that this will in turn free judicial manpower to handle other matters especially full trials and help reduce case backlog.
The head of the judiciary’s Technology Committee, Court of Appeal’s Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire said the initiative will make courts more interactive will an ultimate goal of creating efficiency and smartly addressing case backlog.
“Success here will inform decisions to roll out the initiative to other courts,”Kiryabwire said.