1500 cases settled through plea bargain in 8 months

1500 cases settled through plea bargain in 8 months

By Hudson Kuteesa

Figures from the judiciary show an increase in the number of people wishing to settle their cases out of court. According to figures, 1,500 cases were settled through plea bargains in the past eight months.

In law, plea bargaining is the practice of negotiating an agreement between the prosecution and the defence, whereby the defendant pleads guilty to particular charges in exchange for a more lenient sentence or other possibilities which may include dismissal of the charges.

Plea bargaining is a new procedure in Rwanda, having been operationalised in late 2022. To date, it is being applied in cases of assault and theft.

Though it initially had to start with a five-year pilot phase in five intermediate courts – Gasabo, Nyarugenge, Gicumbi, Muhanga, and Musanze – the officials at the judiciary decided to change the plan and rolled it out in all parts of the country.

Speaking to The New Times, the judiciary’s spokesperson Harrison Mutabazi, said the performance of the procedure in its first months gives an impression that it will perform even better in the future.

“In the next judicial year, we may have these numbers doubled. This will have a lot of benefits in the process of delivering justice,” he said.

Among its advantages, with plea bargaining, investigators easily get key information from the suspects, which can be used in fighting organised crime.

It also delivers justice in a shorter time, reducing the backlog in courts and overcrowding in prisons, as it shrinks the number of cases that reach courts or prisons.

“People are getting justice in a short time because. Some of the people who had their cases settled through plea bargaining would have probably had their cases heard late this year. Actually, some of the cases were resolved at police cell level and did not have to reach courts,” Mutabazi said.

“And there is no miscarriage of justice because even the victims are catered for because they are consulted to give their views on the decisions that are to be taken. Some are even compensated in one way or the other. There are also more opportunities for reconciliation after the compensation and the sentencing are done,” he added.

Efforts like plea bargaining are part of the country’s shift towards a new criminal justice policy that also includes proposals like the use of electronic bracelets for detainees, as well as increasing the opportunities for parole for the convicts who are serving jail sentences.

In addition to this, the judicial sector is also embarking on increasing the use of alternative dispute resolution measures which include mediation and conciliation, as opposed to having all cases resolved through the usual litigation processes.

With such, the government hopes to achieve a number of things, including decongesting prisons in the country, a feat that may save the government more Rwf14.6 billion annually, according to information from the Ministry of Justice.

Early this year, statistics from the justice ministry showed that Rwanda was having around 86,000 people in the 13 correctional facilities across the country.

Source The Times.

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