The Court of Appeal on Monday kicked off a criminal session in Fort Portal city with a total of 42 cases arising from High Court judgments to be handled.
Of the 42 appeals, 19 are against the conviction of aggravated defilement, 15 against murder, seven against aggravated robbery and one against rape.
The judges led by Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera will hear the cases in three days at High Court of Fort Portal and after return to Kampala to embark on judgment writing. The other judges are Eva Luswata and Irene Mulyagonja
Some of the cases arise from judgments passed in 2010.
Fort Portal resident judge Vincent Wagona, said the circuit has a total of 26 judicial officers five of whom are for the high court and 57 non-judicial officers.
From July 2021 to June 2022, he said the judicial officers managed to conclude hearing of 7,456 cases while 8,972 cases are still pending.
Also a total of 1,486 cases are still in the backlog category.
“My lord out of pending cases as of today, we have 745 criminal cases committed to the High Court awaiting trial with another 283 cases expected to be committed,” he said.
In the last financial year, the High Court of Fort Portal concluded 255 criminal cases in six High Court sessions, 200 cases in two plea bargain sessions and 13 cases in Juvenile High Court sessions.
“There is a need for regular High Court sessions to clear case backlog and manage caseload, for a circuit like Fort Portal with two judges, the aim should be to provide for one High Court session and one plea bargain session per judge per quarter,” he said.
He said 80 percent of the caseload are land related, arguing that there is need to fund civil cases as sessions to enable court to provide locus visits saying many cases hearing get completed remain pending awaiting funding for locus visit.
Justice Buteera, while officiating the appeal court session, said the judiciary has started the recruitment process to recruit more judicial officers who will help to address the challenge of case backlog.
He also revealed that government plans to establish Court of Appeal divisions in different places such as Mbarara, Fort Portal, Arua, Gulu, Soroti, Mbale, Jinja and Masaka with the intention of moving services closer to the people and for quick and timely judicial service delivery.
“As judicially we plan to increase the number of judicial officers for the Supreme Court we intend to increase from nine to 26 judges, Court of Appeal from 15 judges to 51 judges,” he said.