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JLOS Stakeholders Debate on Sentencing Guidelines for Magistrates Courts
Hon. Justice Dr Bamwine, the Hon. Principal Judge with participants at the Sentencing Guidelines workshop

Stakeholders in the Criminal justice system on December 14, 2017 held a Consensus building workshop on Sentencing Guidelines for Magistrates Courts at Grand Imperial Hotel in Kampala.

One of the objectives of these guidelines is to provide principles and guidelines to be applied by courts and to provide a mechanism that promotes uniformity, consistency and transparency in the sentencing of non-capital offences.

In his remarks, the Principal Judge, Hon. Justice Dr Yorokamu Bamwine, said there have been major concerns regarding the sentencing process.

"Most sentences are open ended, unrealistic,inconsistent and left to the discretion of court and the public has no direct in-put."

He added, "you find someone who stole a chicken in Karamoja sentenced to one year and similar offender getting five years. This is what we want to do away with by coming up with sentencing ranges and guides to judicial officers."

Judiciary's Technical Advisor, Mr Andrew Khaukha said with the new guidelines in place, judicial officers will have to determine the offence category before giving a sentence. The offences have categorized in the brackets of most serious, medium and less serious with each category having a sentencing range. Currently, Magistrates enjoy wide discretion in sentencing convicts. 

The Director of Public Prosecution, Hon. Justice Mike Chibita, urged judicial officers to always remember to consider the standard aggravating and mitigating factors and take them into consideration when determining sentence.

He said, "Judges and magistrates should always consider whether the offender could justly be sentenced to a non-custodial sentence."


During these deliberations, Hon. Justice Wilson Kwesiga, the head of High Court's criminal division expressed the need to put in place a law which provides compensation to maliciously prosecuted people.

"Most people are recklessly prosecuted, committed to High Court and spend five years on remand but after appearing in court the judge dismisses the case," he said.

The DPP advised those who believe they are maliciously prosecuted to petition his office for review of the charges before trial or judgment is entered. Hon. Justice Richard Buteera of the Supreme Court however advised that the matter be referred to the Law Reform Commission for appropriate action.

He also promised that the stakeholders output will beadded in the report presented to the Chief Justice who will forward it to therules committee before the guidelines are operationalised.

The guidelines were drafted by a 17-member committee chaired by the Principal Judge, Hon. Justice Dr Yorokamu Bamwine. The committee was constituted last year by the Chief Justice to review sentencing guidelines for non-capital offenses. 

Posted 15th, December 2017
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