Plea bargaining is a process between an accused person (in prison) and the prosecution. The accused person agrees to plead guilty in order to have a chance to reduce the punishment (e.g. time in prison) and to speed up the legal process.
Attention: The plea of being guilty will not be a bar to liability in any civil law suit.
Plea bargain at High Court level is held in sessions because the judiciary sets a particular period for it and during such a period all such files of accused persons willing to participate in this session are handled.
With other cases triable by the Magistrates courts the process is ongoing.This is largely encouraged for petty offences-it is especially popular during the lockdown period. The reason is that no hearing of criminal cases is taking place and therefore prisoners find themselves spending a longer time on remand.
Role of Justice Centres Uganda in Plea Bargain
- Justice Centres Uganda conducts Prison outreaches to identify prisoners who wish to plead guilty and benefit from the plea bargain arrangement.
- Identify petty offenders that are willing to plead guilty and get their proposed sentences based on the time they have spent on remand and the offence committed.
- Negotiate with the State Attorney and the Magistrate and agree on the sentences
- Reporting back to the prisons and informing the accused persons of the results of the meeting.
- If the accused agree with the conclusive decision on the sentences then a date is scheduled for the session.
- During the session, the accused person is required to plead guilty and are given lenient sentences such as community service, caution or a short custodial sentence.
This process helps in prison decongestion and also reduces case backlog in courts. Otherwise these accused persons will end up overstaying in prison not knowing when their cases will come up for hearing.