Poor internet affecting court sessions

Poor internet affecting court sessions
Poor internet affecting court sessions

Africa-PressUganda. About 100 court cases have been affected over lack of internet.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country last year, virtual court sessions through Zoom were introduced to reduce case backlog and limit physical interaction between court goers, judicial officers and suspects.

However, in Kitalya and Kigo government prisons, internet has on several occasions failed connection.

The affected suspects have been on remand for more than three months.

“Unlike the Kampala-based courts where internet is faster, the bandwidth in Luweero cannot enable the effective use of Zoom conferencing between court and the prisons’ link. We have at times moved to the prison facilities to facilitate the plea bargain procedure.

“Under the lockdown guidelines, the inmates are not supposed to be moved for the regular court sessions, but we are expediting the services to have the cases handled,” the Luweero Chief Magistrate, Mr Samuel Munobe, said during an interview last week.

Some delayed hearings include Jamil Ssekyondwa, a suspect, who allegedly spread malicious propaganda about the health of President Museveni in June at Kamira Sub-county in Luweero.

He has been remanded at Kitalya Prison since July 15.

Court last week confirmed that Ssekyondwa is among the suspects still awaiting trial after failing to appear in court for the scheduled sessions due to the poor internet system to facilitate zoom conferencing between Luweero Chief Magistrate’s Court and Kitalya Prison .

Records indicate that Ssekyondwa was scheduled to appear in court on August 23 and September 8, but did not.

But Mr Munobe partly blames Ssekyondwa.

He said: “He [Ssekyondwa ] has no lawyer and no member of his family has come up to possibly secure a production warrant. We have the plea bargain court process where he could possibly appear. In court, we do not force any suspect to go for a plea bargain, but we leave it to their respective lawyers or the relatives,” Mr Munobe said .

Ssekyondwa is charged with offensive communication contrary to Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 when he reportedly announced that President Museveni had died on July 7.

The more than 100 suspects currently on remand include suspects on traffic, criminal and capital offences between the period of March 2020 and August 2021.

Court, however, clarified that many other suspects got bail.

The number of criminal cases recorded during the same period is 285, of which 77 cases are capital in nature while the traffic offences are nine.

Under Legal Notice Number 6 of 2019, the Judiciary integrated ICT into adjudication processes in Uganda’s courts, which still strongly rely on pen and paper.


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