Uganda Prisons Service is hindered by inadequate funds as far as transporting prisoners to court is concerned, affecting the dispensation of justice.
The observation was made by the Principal Judge, Dr Flavian Zeija ,during a meeting with the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) stakeholders at the judiciary headquarters in Kampala.
The meeting aimed at exploring solutions to the timely delivery of justice amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Zeija explained that this has not only affected the right to a speedy hearing, but it also compounds congestion in prisons and case backlog in courts which consequently erodes public confidence in the justice system.
“We as interlinked stakeholders in the criminal justice system have a noble duty to look for urgent and lasting solutions to the issues aforementioned despite the continued existence of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Due to restriction of the physical appearance of prison inmates in courts, Zeija said that many accused persons have overstayed on remand awaiting trial.
In March 2020, the Chief Justice issued guidelines to govern operations of Courts in line with the Covid-19 directives issued by the president.
The directive partly prevented the physical presence of prisoners in courts.
Samuel Akena, the director Correctional Services, Uganda Prisons Services, emphasised the need to decongest the prisons by expediting the court litigation process while observing SOPs.
In line with the enforcement of the Human Rights Act of 2019, the director of Criminal Intelligence Directorate, Uganda Police Force, Grace Akullo, decried the pressure to observe the 48 hours rule within which to produce an accused person in court, yet courts are partly operational when it comes to criminal matters.
In addition to observing all SOPs as issued by the ministry of Health, several guidelines were proposed as courts resume the physical appearance of prisoners in court and various proposals were also made to improve the criminal justice system in the country.
The Chief Registrar, Sarah Langa Siu, appealed to all stakeholders to urge all their officers in the field to work closely together to ensure adherence to the adopted Covid-19 health measures and efficiency in the administration of justice.
The director of Public Prosecutions, Jane Frances Abodo, welcomed the move to resume the physical trial of suspects in courts.