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Inspection of Luzira-Buganda Rd Court Audio-Visual Link
Hon. Justice Kiryabwe (JCA), Chairman of the ICT/Law Reporting Committee at Buganda Road

KAMPALA: Described as a move from analogue to digital, the dawn of the virtual court system is finally here.

On Wednesday April 10, 2019, Court of Appeal's Hon. Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire,who also chairs the Technology Committee, led a team of stakeholders to test a new video conferencing system that links Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court to Luzira Prison.

Hon. Justice Kiryabwire said the strategy of the Judiciary is to revolutionize how justice is dispensed. "Going to court should not be a physical structure; we are moving courts from buildings to services that are available to Ugandans who need them."

Hosted at the National Data Centre, the new video conferencing facility will deliver the following benefits:

  1. Lower costs of prisons operations - Cases can be heard online.
  2. Minimize risks of transporting high profile prisoners - as such, cases will be handled online in the safety of Luzira Maximum Security Prison.
  3. Ease access to information during court sessions - document sharing/storage will be electronic and will be accessed remotely by the concerned parties.

Sharing his joy at this milestone, Hon. Justice Kiryabwire said, "We have entered the courts of the future in Uganda".

"Article(126) of the Constitution says we should administer justice according to the aspirations of the people, this is what we are doing. This business of going to court at 9 am and leaving at 5 pm is going to become a thing of the past."

The move has also seen Uganda become the first country in East Africa to put court in prison.

The Ag. Executive Director of the National Information Technology Authority (NITA),Mr Peter Kahiigi, said the provision of justice online is an important e-service for citizens. He said the convenience this provides would allow for faster administration of justice.

The facility will be hosted by the National Backbone Infrastructure, which will enable reliable record keeping of all court sessions footage at the Data Centre.

Hon. Justice Kiryabwire thanked NITA for collaborating with the Judiciary to enable the courts register "the landmark development". 

Adding that this is a first step in driving transformation in the Judiciary.

He further explained that using the video conferencing facility, accused persons on remand would no longer have to make the journey from Luzira to court just to get an adjournment because this will be done at the click of a button. 

"We're not in the business of 'beeping' courts. Judges should not be adjournment specialists. With such a facility, people should be coming to the physical courts for trials."

From Court, Hon. Justice Kiryabwire and his team were taken on a familiarization tour at the National Data Centre where all court proceedings and recordings will be stored.

Thereafter,the team proceeded to Luzira Maximum Prison, where they inspected the videoconferencing unit set up and the video conferencing facility was found to be satisfactory.

The Officer in Charge of Luzira Maximum Security Prison, Moses Sentalo applauded the move saying this will in part address the issue of stretched labor in prisons.

Adding that the system will help in lessening the stress that comes with transporting high-risk inmates to court, Mr. Sentalo called for capacity building programmes on how to effectively utilize the facility.

The Ag. ED NITA said the system will connect courts beyond the geographical boundaries adding that they will support Judiciary in any way they can, to ensure the system succeeds.

The Executive Director of the Judicial Training Institute, Justice Dr. Henry Peter Adonyo said the system can be used for training purposes and advised that the prison courts be gazetted.

He said the facility is aimed at handling cases at mention stages especially in very sensitive cases that require heavy deployments of security. 

A similar facility is being set up at the Luzira Women's Wing.

Posted 11th, April 2019
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