Law Reform Committee makes proposals on bail process

Last week, Judiciary’s Law Reform Committee, one of the key interventions in implementing recommendations of the 2017 Case Backlog Reduction Report, met to discuss the proposed presentation of the Reviewed Bail Guidelines.

The 19-member committee, which is chaired by the Principal Judge, Dr Flavian Zeija, proposed that Registrars and Magistrates submit returns to the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Judiciary every month, giving details of bail refund claims as well as amounts forfeited to the State.

The Committee emphasized that Court Orders must be extracted to accompany bail refund claims and reflect forfeitures to the State.

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The Principal Judge noted that the Guidelines were meant to complement the existing legal provisions on Bail.

The Under Secretary, Ms Maureen Kasande, noted that the new bail refund form would include e-payments to accused persons. Previously, payments could only be effected to the bank accounts of the claimants.

The other aspects discussed at the meeting were updates on the procurement of consultancy services on Child-Friendly Procedures. A budget was circulated to members on the proposed training on Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules, 2019.

The Committee was constituted by the Chief Justice, Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo, on November 20, 2020. In its six months of existence, the Committee has proposed reforms in seven procedures.

These include; Amicus Curiae, Practice Direction on the Establishment of the Infrastructure and Environment Division and Review of Court Fees. The other areas of reform are the Amendment of Executions and Bailiffs Rules, State Briefs, Bail Guidelines and Enhancement of Pecuniary Jurisdiction of Magistrates.

This will see the enhancement of pecuniary jurisdiction of Chief Magistrates from Shs50 million to Shs200 million and Magistrates Grade One from Shs20m to Shs100 million.

The Committee is also in the process of reviewing the Court of Appeal Rules and Child-Friendly Procedures.

The other areas of reform that the Committee considers are the Reorganization of Magisterial areas and Rules on Vexatious Litigation.

According to Office Instruction 1 of 2020 that establishes it, the Committee is mandated with making proposals for a review of Court Rules of Procedure with the overall objective of Expediting the disposal of cases, ensuring adequate preparation of cases before trial, reducing the delay of cases and maximizing judicial time and re-engineering business processes for civil and criminal justice.

The other areas are improving access to justice for unrepresented litigants, simplifying the procedures and practices, improving and streamlining case management and giving judicial officers greater powers to dispose of cases and administer substantive justice expeditiously.

The Committee is set to organise a consultative workshop to validate the proposals before issuing the Rules Committee’s Rules.