Mike Chibita, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), says his directorate withdraws 10 cases on average every day, and there should be no worry about that.
Chibita said this last Saturday while giving a public lecture at the law school of Cavendish University at Kamwokya, Kampala, and noted there are several reasons for which his office loses interest.
“In most cases, it’s the complainant that loses the interest first. However, we also consider the public interest. Sometimes we still pursue such a case because of public interest, but also sometimes it’s due to public interest or pressure that we withdraw a case. Sometimes, we are forced to first approach activists to brief them so that they don’t blame us or raise unnecessary hype following our action,” Chibita said.
The DPP said there should be no ill feelings for the office of the DPP or the person holding it. “By the time we withdraw a case, we have tried a lot. You should have faith in the DPP and the person holding that office. I withdraw 10 cases everyday on average.”
Chibita became DPP in 2013 and his office now has 108 stations and 600 legal and support staff across the country. His office has powers to withdraw a case from any court of law. He said although he is not obliged to report to anyone, he finds that scary and requires the office holder to be humble and conscientious. “I make all my decisions as if somebody is going to look at them in the files at some moment. The president and parliament have put confidence in you; you shouldn’t have to abuse it.”
Chibita also rubbished the idea of private prosecution. He said it is not warranted when public prosecution is available and free of charge. He wondered why a person would pursue it if not for ill-intentions.
“The DPP handles all prosecutions except for the General Court Martial. Why should you suffer to do private prosecution when the DPP is paid to do that work? With the police given expert training and paid to do its work?” he asked.
Chibita said it is often vendetta that drives private prosecution and, therefore, it can only lead to bad work. “I have found that 95 per cent of all private prosecutions are frivolous and malicious. If government were to allow rampant private prosecution, who would ever want to [take the risk] work for government? That’s why I opposed private prosecution of [former inspector general of police Gen] Kale Kayihura.
He said although private prosecution is taught at the undergraduate law course and is mentioned in Uganda’s constitution, it is not respected in the judicial system, and an enabling law would have to be enacted first to raise it out of the doldrums.
“Even private investigators are not known in the prosecution process. They can only offer their expertise through the police’s CID. For example, ISO [Internal Security Organisation] can’t bring their investigation [findings] to the DPP; they can only go through the police/CID,”
VICTIMS OF CRIMES
The DPP observed with concern that victims of crime complaints are almost not recognized and the victims are often not kept in the know of the progress of cases in the judicial process. There is no counselling or psycho-social support to victims of crimes.
While blaming this largely on lack of funds, Chibita called for useful ideas from any stakeholder. “We are willing to hear from stakeholders. Cavendish [University Uganda] can set up a clinic to work with us on the matter, and we would be willing to cooperate.”
He stressed that he cannot sign for withdrawal of a case unless his staff have satisfied him that they talked to the victim(s) of the crime and they agreed to withdrawal.