LUSAKA High Court Judge Chalwe Mchenga says the 15 years minimum sentence for sexual offenders is not deterrent enough.
Mr Mchenga said despite the enactment of the Penal Code Amendment Act No. 15 of 2005, which introduced 15 years minimum sentence for most sexual offences, the sentences have not shown any effect because the number of people arrested, prosecuted and convicted for committing such offences has increased.
He said this in Lusaka yesterday at the ceremonial opening of the Lusaka High Court criminal sessions for 2014.
“Since it is now apparent that the lengthy sentences that the Act No. 15 of 2005 introduced have not had a desired effect, isn’t it time for us to have a relook on how we deal with sexual offences and sexual offenders in Zambia?
“Isn’t it time for politicians, women, traditional rulers, religious leaders, lawyers, medical practitioners, child rights activists and other concerned citizens to get together and look at what is responsible for the surge in sexual offences?” Mr Mchenga asked.
Justice Mchenga called for an indaba to come up with an alternative way of dealing with the high levels of sexual offences in the country.
He also said the judicial reforms that the government is currently implementing have been helping in accelerating the disposal of criminal cases in the country.
“In line with the reforms we are undertaking, we have also adopted a system which allows the criminal session’s causelist to include trials, criminal appeals and cases committed to the High Court by subordinate courts for sentencing or confirmation of sentences.
“As a result, the number of cases being attended to in a session has increased,” Justice Mchenga said.
And NANCY MWAPE from Livingstone reports that Livingstone High Court judge Gaudentia Milimo Salasini has called for collective effort in the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) and corruption in institutions administering criminal justice.
Speaking at the opening of the 2014 High Court session in Livingstone yesterday, Justice Salasini said the Judiciary is committed to fighting corruption in all ranks.
“The Judiciary still remains committed to fighting corruption and shall remain a mirror of the nation with the support of all stakeholders and society,” she said.
Ms Salasini said 2013 had its own challenges in the administration and dispensation of criminal justice.
She cited transportation of prisoners to court as a major challenge the province faced.
Ms Salasini also said police stations have no provision for women and juvenile cells.
“The police and prison cells are congested. Mattresses and blankets are worn out and in some cases not available, therefore, exposing prisoners to adverse, cold conditions,” she said.
Judge Salasini, however, noted that the number of inmates complaining of delayed cases has significantly reduced.
She cited the completion of the Kalomo Subordinate Court, which is now awaiting commissioning, as one of the successes recorded in 2013.
Justice Salasini said the province was also privileged to see the construction of 11 local courts, out of which five are operational and six under construction.
She urged stakeholders to rise to the challenges facing the various institutions and work as a team for the benefit of people being served.
Officiating at the same function, Southern Province Minister Daniel Munkombwe said congestion in prison is a worry to Government and efforts are being made to build more structures in the province.
Mr Munkombwe said Government is determined to build more cells for juveniles and women to decongest the prisons.
“We are worried about the situation of prisons as a Government…we are also worried of some traces of corruption in the judicial system. By the way, Zambia is rated the best in as far as administration of justice is concerned,” he said.
In Kabwe, CHAMBO NG’UNI writes that Judge Elita Mwikisa has said the delay in hearing and concluding cases has continued to be a major challenge faced by the courts in Central Province.
Judge Mwikisa said this yesterday during the ceremonial opening of Kabwe High Court criminal sessions for Central Province for this year.
“For capital offences that are not bailable, the delay in hearing and concluding cases sometimes results in the accused persons spending significant periods of time in detention before their cases are concluded. This trend is undesirable and requires quick redress,” she said.
Justice Mwikisa attributed the delay in hearing and concluding cases to non-availability of witnesses.
She also bemoaned poor sanitation in prisons and lack of uniforms among prisoners, adding that these challenges border on dignity and human rights.
“The court’s visits to prisons continue to highlight the same issues that are not being effectively addressed by the authorities concerned,” she said.
Justice Mwikisa also said lack of court infrastructure continues to be a major problem in Central Province.
She is, however, happy that there is progress in constructing a new three-storey High Court in Kabwe and construction of four local courts in Makululu, Chibombo, Masansa and Chikupili.
And Central Province Minister Obvious Mwaliteta said the fact that Kabwe High Court will have 10 criminal sessions this year is a source of concern.
“This is a clear indication that we have a lot of cases, which should be a source of concern to all well-meaning citizens,” Mr Mwaliteta said.
He said Government attaches great importance to the Judiciary and this is why it has created a conducive environment to operate in.