His Lordship Henry Adonyo had a dream. Although it seemed ambitious at the time, he dreamt of starting a one-stop shop, where people with all sorts of problems could go for help. Today, Justice Centres Uganda, commonly referred to as JCU, is a dream come true.
Established and operationalised in the Judiciary by Circular Instruction Number 01 of 2010 from the Chief Justice, the first Justice Centres were opened in August 2010. Since then, these Centres have been everything Adonyo envisaged them to be - a one-stop-shop with a broad range of legal aid services to all categories of vulnerable people in the community, identified through a means and merit test.
JCU operates a Toll Free Line as well as Centres and Service Points in each of its operational districts. The Call-in option reduces queues at centres and eases accessibility of services. Clients received through both options are provided with free basic legal advice and information. Those requiring further assistance are either invited to the Centres for further legal assistance or referred to other service providers if their cases fall outside JCU’s mandate and/or capacity. Referral involves formal communication to the referred institution and constant follow ups by JCU staff until the client’s problem is addressed.
New applicants are provided with basic advice and if there is need for further help, they are subjected to an electronic Means and Merit Test which determines their indigence before appropriate services are offered. Old clients are assisted to follow up their cases as needed.Cases registered with JCU are resolved either through mediation, litigation and clients are offered psychosocial support as part of the legal aid package. Psychosocial support has been an important element in diagnosing the root causes of reported problems in the communities and designing appropriate response strategies. For example disputes related to administration of estates have resulted from lack of awareness about the Succession Act and procedures for dealing with estates of deceased persons.
In 2015 alone, JCU provided psychosocial support to 1,152 clients that registered cases for dispute resolution. Cases mediated by JCU included referrals from Courts as provided for by the Judicature (Mediation) Rules 2013. In 2015, a total of 780 cases were resolved through mediation and JCU successfully litigated 189 and executed 7 cases. And every day, new cases are coming in…