The Chief Justice, Bart M. Katureebe, will tomorrow, April 15, commission a video conferencing system to Luzira Maximum Security Prison.
The facility will be used for the mentioning of criminal cases before they are fixed for trial.
The Chief Justice will, on the same occasion, operationalise two virtual courts that have been set up within the Luzira Prison complex – one in Luzira Upper Prison Male Wing and another in the Women’s Prison which is about to be finalized.
Hosted at the National Data Centre 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.
Court of Appeal’s Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire, who chairs Judiciary’s Technology Committee, said after leading a technical team inspection to Buganda Road Court, NITA and Luzira Prisons, that the facilities were satisfactory.
“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.”
“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.
The move will save judiciary the cost of transporting and escorting suspects to and from 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,” said Sentalo.
He said a team of Uganda Prisons staff have been trained to operate the facility.
The facility is expected to lower costs of prisons operations as preliminary stages of cases can be handled online.
It also will minimize risks of transporting high profile prisoners – as such cases will be handled online in the safety of Luzira Prisons.
Officials also applauded the easing of access to information during court sessions considering that document sharing/storage will be electronic and accessed remotely by the concerned parties.