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Justice, Law and Order Sector in the Process Of Developing Sentencing Guidelines

Sentencing in Uganda has been described as erratic, unscientific and uncertain with no shortage of complaints of why sentences are too soft, harsh or why the poor receive disproportionately higher sentences than the rich.Individual judicial officers have often described sentencing as one of the most difficult aspects of adjudication because of limited guidance on arriving at appropriate sentences.

In the public domain, the public does not appreciate why certain sentences are imposed. Only recently, when the International Criminal Division sentenced one of the master minds in the Kampala terrorist bombing which killed more than sixty people to twenty five years imprisonment, newspapers and the electronic were awash with public complaints against the judiciary for being insensitive to the needs of those who lost their dear ones during the bombing. In one scenario, one argued that it would have been better if the convict had been subjected to swift mob justice! Of course, we can only guess what kind of sentence the public would have imposed.

It is against this background that the Chief Justice and the Justice Law and Order Sector in conjunction with DANIDA is developing sentencing guidelines to regulate and provide for standardization of sentencing in Uganda.

The sentencing guidelines shall provide for sentences which reflect the seriousness of the offense bearing in mind the degree of harmfulness or risked harmfulness of the of fences , prevailing circumstances and the degree of culpability.

Besides, the sentencing guidelines will ensure that judicial officers take into account the rights of the victim and the community in arriving at the appropriate sentence hence reforming the criminal justice system which has hitherto been defense centered.

For the first time in Uganda, it will be possible for a convict and the public to know what kind of sentence is likely to be imposed since a judicial officer will be given a possible range of sentences to impose unless he or she has strong reasons to depart from the prescribed range. What this will do, like it did in England, is that both the rich and poor will get equal sentences- thus bringing equity within the judicial arena.

Under the reforms, it is proposed to establish a sentencing council which shall inter alia be responsible for developing sentencing guidelines for all courts in Uganda, developing a national sentencing policy, sensitizing the public about sentencing processes to enhance public confidence in the criminal justice.

A task force Chaired by the Hon. The Principal Judge Justice Yorokamu Bamwine and working with the Uganda Law Reform Commission is in the final stages of preparing the sentencing guidelines which will be submitted to all the relevant stakeholders before they are submitted to the Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice is likely to operationalise the Sentencing Guidelines through a Practice Direction under article 132 of the Constitution before April 2012 as he awaits the enactment of a law establishing the Sentencing Council by Parliament.

 

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Published: November 9, 2011