Wednesday May 21 2014

People in the chain of justice

ASP Patrick Jimmy Okena

ASP Patrick Jimmy Okena 

By Betty Ndagire, Julius Ocungi & Anthony Wesaka

In our justice campaign series, we now bring you the typical day of various players in the justice system; a police officer, a prison warden, a public prosecutor and an advocate.

This is intended to bring you an insight of what a typical day in the life of these men and women in the justice system is. A section of the public looks at say a judge, magistrate as being semi demi-gods who don’t even do their personal cleaning thinking that everything is just done for them.

In this piece, learn that these men and women, whom we usually see donned in uniform, suits, sometimes robbed in legal clothes; go about their daily routine of work from morning when they wake up till that time when they retire home just like other human beings.

ASP PATRICK JIMMY OKENA, ASWA REGIONAL POLICE SPOKESPERSON

My day begins at 5am. I wake up, say a short prayer and do some exercises for 15 minutes before taking a bath.
At 6:15, I tune BBC for news updates for 30 minutes, dress and at exactly 7am I take my breakfast.

My workday starts at 8:30am with making calls to all the regional police commanders in the seven districts of Acholi Sub-region, to get updates on what has transpired within the region.

If it is a Monday, I normally attend a meeting with the regional police commanders and district police commanders from 9am to 11am on issues happening in their region and come out with ideas of curbing them down.

By 11:30 am, I attend to the general public on complaints lodged against police officers’ misconduct, in case they are there and also give guidance to the general public.
My day is also full of receiving and responding to certain issues that need clarity from the press.

At times, in case of a technicality in handling certain issues, I seek for advice from my superiors.

At 2pm every Monday, I hold a press briefing at the Northern Uganda Media centre, where I brief various media houses in the region on what has been transpiring during the course of the week.
I break off for late lunch at 3pm in case there is no emergency that requires my presence and return to office by 3:30pm, then carry on with work until 6pm.

Sometimes I may retire from the office at 7pm or 8pm.
On a Monday evening when I retire from work, I head to for a radio talk show at Mega Fm, where I interact with the community on sensitisation programmes.

Mondays are the most stressful days for me, because of the heavy workload. On this day I retire home by 9pm.

I have enjoyed working with the media in the region because of their cooperation with police as an institution. Although there are a few issues that I have had with some of them, we have been able to get back and iron them out.

At the moment there is trust in police by the public. On many occasions, in case there are certain issues happening in the communities, the locals always communicate and the team is always dispatched on the ground. I have also enjoyed the good working relationship with some NGOs in the region especially Care Uganda and UNDP that were able to provide some furniture to my office.

However, working alone in my department, where I do not have a deputy, is tiresome. Most of the time, I have to be on the ground working meaning I cannot get a day off like other officers.

Transport has also affected my work. I only have a motorcycle that cannot facilitate me across the entire seven districts, so I rely on telephone calls that at times disappoint especially in areas where there is poor network.

SGT FRED OKULLU (PRISON WARDER)

I work with Uganda Prisons Service as a prisons warden. My day as a warden is hectic though I don’t complain, because I enjoy what I do.

Normally I wake up 4.30am when my alarm clock rings. I say my prayers, after which I move out of the house to do some jogging which helps me keep fit for the whole day before heading to Luzira prison at 5.45am. The first thing I do when I get there is to join my colleagues to attend the daily parade.

The parade is usually addressed by the officer in-charge of the prison who assigns us different duties for the day. He allocates us duties in different prison wards such as taking suspects to court or taking them to the hospital among others.

After the parade that lasts about 30 minutes. I proceed to the prison ward that I have been allocated to, to do the first routine assignment of the day, which is counting the suspects so as to ascertain their numbers and ensure that none is missing.

Subsequently, I open the ward so that the inmates can proceed to the dining hall to eat their porridge for breakfast.

Most of the days, I am deployed to escort the inmates to various courts around the city which are Buganda Road Court, Mwanga II, Nakawa Court and Makindye among others to have their cases heard.
But before I escort them, I have to verify those who are sick and need to be taken to Mulago hospital.

If for the day I have been assigned to escort sick inmates to Mulago hospital we board another prisons bus, different from the one taking suspects to the courts.

Since courts start business at 9am, I must make sure that we reach there before then. However, there are some days when the court business starts late at around 11am and also ends late at about 6pm.

To make matters worse, we even don’t have lunch the whole day while in those courts. So if you don’t have some money on you, you will certainly spend the whole day on an empty stomach.
I also spend most of my day interacting with people who come to visit the suspects in court.

Later on in the evening, at 5pm after the court sessions, I count the inmates again. I release those who have been granted bail by the courts and fulfilled the bail requirements and then board the bus back to Luzira with those inmates who haven’t been released, and those freshly charged and remanded on that day.

Upon reaching Luzira prison usually at about 5:30pm,I part ways with the inmates and retire to my home in the prison quarters to be with my family.

I am happy about my job as there are few challenges I face. Another thing I like is that I receive my salary in time. This makes me love my job more and work on improving my efficiency.

When I am with these inmates, I feel compassionate towards them. I do not see them as necessarily problematic people for institutional management, but rather as those people who need to be rehabilitated such that they benefit the society once they are returned.


Sydney Asubo, prosecutor at Inspectorate of Government

I am the director, legal affairs at the Inspectorate of Government, a position I have held for the past four years.

My typical day starts at 5am when I wake up. I do my personal meditation for the next 15 minutes before I do personal cleaning up to 6am. I leave home for work at 6am and on the way, drop my children at school. I reach office located on Parliamentary Avenue in Kampala between 7am and 7.30am.

When I reach office, the first thing I do is to go through my e-mails and respond to some important ones. At the same time, I grab a cup of coffee. On the day that I have court, I proceed to court where I reach at around 8.30am.

If it is a High Court matter, I go when I am properly robed (robed means putting on the acceptable legal clothes). Between 8.30am and 9am when court officially sits, I do final checks to ensure that the relevant laws are assembled, witness statements are in correct order, and exhibits are organised in the sequence in which the prosecutor will seek to tender them in court.

In the same period, I also meet state witnesses who will be testifying that day and remind them of the court processes.

Of course, this is all premised on the assumption that I would have already talked to the witnesses long before the court date. Never put a witness on the stand before discussing the evidence with them.
Thereafter the witnesses will testify one after the other until court adjourns. Once the day’s court business is closed, I will go back to office to prepare for the next day.

If it is a criminal session that runs from one day to the next, it is advisable that a day’s court proceedings end around 3pm to give me at least a two-hour office time window to prepare for the following day’s court appearance.

Prior to the court day, I make sure that the witnesses have been duly and properly served and I have discussed and prepared them to testify.

On a day when I don’t have court sessions, when I reach office, I go through my e-mails, and also read the newspapers. At around 8.30am, I hold discussions with particular officers up to 10am. I lead a team of 30 employees with 20 being lawyers.

The rest of the day is dedicated to perusal of the files and other legal work with a lunch break between 1-2pm.

But on busy days, I even use the lunch breaks to hold lunch meetings. On a day I don’t have court, there are lots of walk-ins by lawyers to consult me and also the public to consult on legal matters, and I also interview witnesses. Besides the walk-ins, I also get assignments from my bosses the (IGG and the deputies).

The official closing time is 5pm; however, on many occasions depending on the volume of work, I have to work an extra one or two hours.

In the evening once I reach home regardless of the time, I take one hour to do some physical exercises to keep healthy and fit. I then freshen up before checking my e-mails again for any pending response.

Fitz Patrick Furah, Advocate

I’m an advocate in my own law firm. My day begins at 5am during school holidays; however when it is school time, I have to drop my children at school myself by 5:30am. Thereafter I proceed to office.

On most days I have court engagements, but even if I do not have in the morning I still come straight to my office by 7am. We hold meetings every morning my colleague lawyer from 7:30am-8am. After that I talk to a few clients who may be around or witnesses if any before I proceed to court at 9am.

However you cannot determine when your case will be heard, and depending on the days’ work it might be heard in the. If it’s not there I get back to office to attend to clients, do legal drafting, proof reading, and pleadings.

In private practice, we do not have a specific time when you break off from chambers to go back home; it depends on the day’s work. At times we leave office and meet clients because most of them never come to the chambers so you find them in their offices where you get new or further instructions, then we go home.

I go to court to usually litigate, sometimes to file, check on the positions of the files like those that might have lost track or take up instructions from another lawyer, where I peruse through, receiving rulings and judgments depending on the sensitivity of the matter.

My problem with courts is the waiting. We have been advising the judiciary officers to schedule the cases at different intervals other than fixing all cases at the same time, for instance six to 10 lawyers will all be waiting for their cases to be called or mentioned at 9am, at the same time. We suggest that they give specific time to each case coming up since they know us and how long we take while arguing a case.
When I argue a case successfully and I get out of court, everyone on my side is happy; they forget about the other side who might say “Omusajja oyo” (meaning “that man”) which might on the other hand be a job hazard. You create as many enemies and friends.

We also receive threats from the opponents we are proceeding against. You have to be very curious and I have to sound this to my fellow colleagues. As a lawyer you have to be very careful because they can attempt to poison, to harm you physically. They have to be very careful of the places they hang out, and the time they move out. Some people have opted for private fire arms for their own security.

Being a third world country, people do not distinguish between a client and a lawyer or the party to the suit or matter.

When they look at the lawyer, they think all their problems were caused by you since you’re the one arguing the matter anyway, saying “oyo yemugezi we” literally meaning that you decide for the client.

One of the reasons I chose to be a lawyer is to better my life and secondly, the confidence. You know lawyers exhibit a lot of confidence; they can handle anything since we know our rights. When I express myself in court, I get that job satisfaction.

COURTS OF LAW IN UGANDA

The Judiciary is an independent organ of government entrusted to administer justice through courts of judicature including the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and other courts or tribunals established by Parliament.

Subordinate courts include Magistrates Courts, Local Council Courts, Qadhis’ courts for marriage, divorce, inheritance of property and guardianship, and tribunals such as those established under the Land Act (Cap 227), Communications Act (Cap 106) and Electricity Act (Cap 145).

The relationship between the different courts is illustrated in the pyramid below. In addition, Uganda also makes extensive use of the military courts system, which is also in some cases used to charge civilians.

The functions of the Judiciary are;
• To adjudicate civil and criminal cases
• To interpret the Constitution and the laws
• To promote human rights, social justice and morality
The judiciary is established under Chapter eight of the constitution.

The constitution states that judicial power is derived from the people and shall be exercised by the courts in the name of the people and in conformity with law and with the values, norms and aspirations of the people. It also sets out principles that the courts are to follow when deciding cases:
• Justice must be done to all irrespective of their social or economic status;
• Justice must not be delayed;
• Adequate compensation must be awarded to victims of wrongs;
• Reconciliation between parties should be promoted and
• Substantive justice must be administered without undue regard to technicalities.
http://www.cmi.no/

As told to Betty Ndagire, Julius Ocungi, Anthony Wesaka,

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