CJ Katureebe commissions virtual courts

By Sania Babirye

The Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe, has today commissioned a video conferencing system to Luzira Maximum Security Prison and Buganda Road court.

Justice Katureebe has called upon all judges and other stakeholders to see that the system is used to serve its purpose.
He said that if fully used by judges to serve its purpose, they will see that the system is enrolled in all courts starting from the smallest (grade one courts) to the highest court (Supreme court).

To see the whole system enrolled, this will cost government 12 billion shillings annually.The facility will be used for the mentioning of criminal cases before they are fixed for trial.
Justice Katureebe has also operational two virtual courts that have been set up within the Luzira upper Prison male and female wings.

According to Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire of the court of appeal judge and also chair of the Judiciary’s technological committee , the facilities are satisfactory.

Justice Kiryabwire has also revealed that they will be needing 12 billion shillings for the next five years to see that the technology is enrolled in the whole country.

He says that this money will enable them to see that all courts in the country from the magistrate courts to the supreme court are connected to video conferencing.

He however says that right now the funding they are getting from ministry of finance is inadequate to allow their plans since they only received UGX 6 billion which is about 50%.

He however says that he is hopeful that government will increase their funding but are also happy to start with the little they have to start on their plans.

He says that the program is going to save suspects and Luzira prison officials the burden of coming to court even for short sessions like mentioning of case as it has been the case.

He also says that the public will also stop being inconvenienced through road closing by security personnel as it has been the case when key suspects are being brought to court.

He said that although proceedings like mentioning of cases takes a little time, however it has been costly in transporting suspects from Luzira prison to court were some of them have in the end escaped from court docks as it was the case in Masaka.

This means that the judge or magistrate will sit at Buganda road and mentions all cases through video conferencing with suspects at Luzira prison

The lawyers will also have a chance to file their cases through E filling without necessarily moving to court to file paper work as it has also been the case.

“We have entered the courts of the future in Uganda,” he said, adding: “Uganda is the first country in East Africa to set up courts inside a prison. Judiciary’s strategy is to revolutionalise how justice is dispensed.Uganda is the first country in East Africa to set up courts inside a prison.”

“We are moving courts from buildings to services that are available to Ugandans who need them. With such a facility, people should be coming to the physical courts only for trials,” said Justice Kiryabwire

Hosted at the National Data Center under the National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U), the high-tech court conference facilities were recently installed both in the Luzira Prison and Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court in Kampala.

The technology is designed to aid the mentioning of all criminal cases at Buganda Road Court involving accused persons on remand in Luzira Prison before their cases are fixed for trial.

Buganda Road Court will also handle related cases on behalf of the Magistrates Courts of Makindye, Nakawa, Nabweru, Law Development Centre (LDC), Kira, City Hall, Nateete/Rubaga, Luzira, Kasangati and the Anti-Corruption Court.

NITA’s Executive Director, James Saaka, said the facility is designed to connect the courts beyond the geographical boundaries to provide faster administration of justice.

He said recordings from all court sessions will be safely kept in the National Backbone Infrastructure at the National Data Centre.

The Officer in Charge of Luzira Upper Prison, Moses Sentalo, applauded the move.

“The system will save us the costs involved in the back and forth transportation of prisoners to courts as well as the stress that comes with moving high risk inmates. Imagine, transporting one inmate to court requires five prison officers handling different roles: driver, gunman, orderly, warder and supervisor).”

He said a team of Uganda Prisons staff have been trained to operate the facility and they are ready for the

The facilities will help among other things,

• Lower costs of prisons operations since preliminary stages of cases can be handled online.

• Minimise risks of transporting high profile prisoners as such cases will be handled online in the safety of Luzira Prisons.

• Ease access to information during court sessions since document sharing/storage will be electronic and will be accessed remotely by the concerned parties.

It will also reduce on the case baklog which has also brought about by suspects missing court sessions due to lack of transport.

The prisoner’s right’s will also be protected since they will no longer be chained as it has been while beong transported in court.