The Director of Public Prosecutions Jane Frances Abodo has decried the high levels of understaffing in her office saying that currently, at least 201 out of the 238 operational courts do not have Prosecutors. This amounts to 84.4 percent of the courts lacking a prosecutor, which hinders the timely dispensation of justice.
Abodo disclosed the alarming situation in her office to Uganda Radio Network on the sidelines of an event held at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala to launch three books that are supposed to guide prosecutors to enable them to properly handle cases related to Gender-Based Violence.
The books were developed by the office of the DPP with support from the United Nations Women and International Justice Mission. One is titled the Cross Sectoral Handbook for Victim Centered Investigation, Prosecution and Adjudication of Gender Based Violence -GBV Cases and the other is Multi-Disciplinary Training Curriculum on GBV and Violence against Children.
However, according to DPP Abodo, prosecuting gender-based violence requires them to be in all courts across the country which is currently difficult. But, she notes that although many sectors in the justice system are understaffed, when it comes to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the situation is chronic.
Abodo explains that they used to be 324 Prosecutors but some of them have since crossed from the office of the DPP to the Judiciary looking for greener pastures and currently they are about 300 prosecutors handling a population of more than 40 million people which makes them get strained with work.
The country’s Chief Prosecutor Abodo adds that by the end of August 2021, they did not have Prosecutors in 102 courts in the country and now that the Judiciary has recruited and deployed 90 Magistrates and five Judges in the last two months and they are still recruiting, they are now left with much less manpower, leaving 201 courts lacking prosecutors, which affects the dispensation of justice.
As such, Abodo says there is need to recruit more prosecutors to match the increasing number of courts in the country and also to be able to tackle the case backlog issue.
The annual performance report issued by the Judiciary last month indicated that there were more than 150,000 cases in the backlog in the justice system during the financial year 2020/2021. In Uganda, a case is considered in backlog when it has spent more than two years in the justice system without being concluded.
To Abodo, if the government recruits more Prosecutors to bridge the understaffing levels in her office, the issue of backlog can also be eliminated in the Judiciary.
It is not uncommon to see criminal proceedings failing to take place in courts when the prosecutors are absent and at times cases getting dismissed for want of prosecution which affects the dispensation of justice to both the victims and the accused persons as well as wastage of resources for the judicial officers who come to preside over the flopped cases.