Over 100 Masindi prison inmates plead guilty

More than 100 inmates from Masindi government prison have pleaded guilty to committing various offences during the free legal service known as Pro Bono.

Ms Irene Twesiime, a legal officer and coordinator for pro bono activities with Legal Aid Project of the Uganda Law Society (ULS), Masindi branch, revealed this to Kazi-njema News ahead of this year’s Pro Bono Day on Friday this week.

The pro bono week began on November 30 and ends on December 4, 2020, with activities at Masindi magisterial court premises where judicial officials including lawyers from Bunyoro region will offer free legal services to members of the public.

Ms Twesiime said ahead of the pro bono day, a lot of activities were done including sensitising members of the public about the law and conducting a plea bargain session with the inmates at Masindi government prison.

It was during this plea bargain session at the government correctional facility that many inmates pleaded guilty to their offences and were assigned a magistrate to handle their cases and hand them sentences.

Audio: Twesiime on plea bargaining (English)

Ms Twesiime explained that the pro bono week was initiated to enable people who cannot afford the services of a private lawyer to get justice by accessing free legal services.

She added that the week also helps the ULS to implement a provision in the Advocates Act that requires each lawyer to give free legal service to the community.

Audio: Twesiime on pro bono (English)

Ms Twesiime, therefore, called upon the people of Bunyoro region with legal issues to take advantage of the Pro Bono Day to get free legal assistance adding that those who have matters that need to go to court will be given lawyers to represent them there.

Audio: Twesiime on pro bono activities (English)

A regional probono day was initiated by the Uganda Law Society (ULS) to increase access to justice through the provision of free legal services by advocates to the poor, indigent and marginalised in Uganda.

The Act

The Advocates (Amendment) Act 27 of 2002 makes it mandatory for lawyers to provide legal services pro bono to indigent persons in Uganda.

Section 15 and the Advocates (Pro Bono Services to Indigent Persons) Regulations, 2009 sets a minimum of 40 hours free services in each year.

Section 15 A of the amendment to the same Act provides:

(i) That every Advocate shall provide services when required by the Law Council or pay a fee prescribed by the Law Council in lieu of such services;

(ii) Where any Advocate does not comply with sub section (1), the Law Council shall refuse to issue or renew a practicing certificate to that Advocate under sub section 11 of this Act.

The Advocates Act Cap 267 Section 3 (e) stipulates that the Law Council shall ‘…..exercise general supervision and control over the provision of legal aid and advice to indigent persons.

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