Thought and Ideas
Our conviction rate is 56 per cent - DPP
Posted Sunday, January 20 2013 at 02:00
National challenge. A section of the population believes that Mr Richard Butera, the Director of Public Prosecution, is not a fair man. Sunday Monitor’s ISMAIL MUSA LADU, in a recent interview, sought Mr Butera’s views on how he conducts his duties, especially when dealing with politically charged cases. Below are excerpts:-
There is suspicion that you’re not independent enough, especially when dealing with politically-motivated cases. How independent are you?
I am happy with my work and I am doing the best I can. I am also very independent in what I do. All that I consider is that when the police investigate a case I look at the nature of the evidence collected on the police file, pick relevant legislation for that file, and analyse the evidence presented to me and look at the law. And for as long as the evidence satisfies me, that in accordance with the law the offence has been committed, I take a decision on the basis of the evidence and the law only. And that is how independently I work.
Not many will believe that. Because the other suspicion is you quickly take up these cases while aware that you do not have enough evidence?
I am not aware of any.
How come most of these cases are never won in court? Doesn’t it worry you?
I would be worried if that was true. Our conviction rate is currently about 56 per cent from about 30 per cent 10 years ago. And at the Anti-Corruption Court we have a conviction rate of about 65 per cent. If you check with Prisons authorities the population of convicts has been raising as against remands. We have reduced remand periods and increased the number of convicts to about 51 per cent. So the idea that we are losing cases is simply inaccurate if you look at the comparisons of what we are doing. But if you say we have lost some cases then that is a fact. But it is also a fact that we are winning the majority of cases.
But if you look at the weight of the cases you lose, doesn’t it tell something about how you do your work and investigations? For example, most people believe the cases against Dr Besigye were trumped-up charges?
We prosecuted Besigye for what I know in a case of rape. It was not a trumped up charge. We produced our evidence and the judge ruled that Besigye had a case to answer. Witnesses were summoned and they were cross-examined. And the judge made a ruling of a case to answer. Where a judge has listened to witnesses and made a ruling that there is a case to answer, I don’t think that is a trumped-up charge; at least he had agreed with us that we had a reason for prosecution. So, why would anybody stand up and say that was trumped-up or the DPP had no case yet the judge agreed that there was a case for him [Dr Besigye] to answer?
You seem quite selective in dealing with cases. For example what happened to former minister of Information Kabakumba Masiko’s mast case?
We took a position and that was clear. We handled the file and identified the people we think we should try in court. And one of them was the manager of the company in which she was a shareholder and another was an engineer at the (Uganda) Broadcasting Corporation — both, we have charged in court. And we could give you the details.
And does that mean Ms Kabakumba is off the hook?
No. She has not been charged, although we think the company should be responsible for civil liability on its handling of that issue.
Why are you so quick in sanctioning opposition files (cases) and when it comes to the ruling party members or those who are allied to the regime you always seem reluctant?
If the two commit the same offence and on the same day we shall handle them with the same accuracy and same speed. Whichever the offender is we have never looked at the file and found out which party or which status or which people. We handle files on the merit of those cases. So whoever wants to walk (to work), it will not matter which party, we shall handle it the same way.
Are you shelving some Chogm files as you initiate selective prosecution?
We have not kept any files on the shelves. You could consult the police. We have handled all the files that were investigated. We have taken some to court and those that we have taken to court we have got convictions. You may want to check that with the Anti-Corruption Court. And if there are files that are still pending we could check and let you know the position.
How are you dealing with the case backlog?
This is something we are working on together with the others in the Justice Law and Order sector. With the police we want to speed up investigations. And with the courts system we would want to give them timely and well-investigated cases so that they are handled quickly and with that we believe we will cut the backlog. We are also trying to look at the cases that are already in the system and evaluate the evidence and check out whether we have witnesses and see how we can quicken it. We have done this in a project and it has worked very well.
The quality of investigations that allows you to support your case in most cases is shoddily done. How much has that contributed to derailing your work and how are you dealing with it?
We are working with police to improve their investigations. We have been involved in doing so many things around quality investigation and will continue to train police investigators and we hope progressively the quality of their investigations will improve.
How visible are you outside Kampala?
We are currently in over 90 districts with 98 stations outside Kampala - from 16 stations in the last 10 years - and in another four years we shall be represented in every district.