Suspects urged to engage in plea bargaining

By Sania Babirye

Suspects whose capital offenses are being heard under a criminal session have been advised to take up the plea bargaining deal.

The advise has been made by justice Jane Francis Abodo who is presiding over a two day criminal session at the Entebbe high court.

The criminal session will last 40 days in which suspects charged with murder, attempt murder, defilement, kidnap and aggravated robbery who have been on remand for years without their cases being heard will finally get a chance at justice.

However justice Abodo has the said suspects to engage in the plea bargaining deal with the state which will save court time and resources by pleading guilty to offenses they are charged of for a lesser punishment.

A Plea bargaining allows suspects to plead guilty to an offense in which they are given a lesser sentence and also saves courts time by preventing suspects to go under a full trial .

The deal is made between prosecution and the suspect and sometimes a judge might not be involved in the plea bargain negotiations.

It is also used to reduce congestion in prisons since some suspects are handed a non custodial sentence after pleading guilty and also a dress case backlog.

However activists especially women and children activists have criticized the plea bargaining program saying it gives criminals who defile children and those who rape women to almost walk freely by giving them lesser punishments or lower sentences for crimes committed against vulnerable children and women.

However, prosecution encourages plea bargain because it allegedly speeds up the process of justice.

On another note, plea bargain can put innocent people in jail due to the pressure and fear by suspects to under give full trial and then lose the case.

Worse still when some one is sentenced under a plea bargain and is dissatisfied with the sentence, he or she cannot appeal his sentence.