The Strides Made by the Standards Court

By Caroline Agonzibwa

The Standards, Utilities and Wildlife Court herein referred to as the Standards Court was inaugurated on the 26th May 2017 by then Chief Justice Bart Katureebe. The law establishing the Court is The Constitution (Magistrates Court) (Standards, Utilities and Wildlife Division) Directions 2016 issued under Legal Notice No. 12 of 2016. The Court is housed at the Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court

One of the reasons for establishment of this court was the enhancement of access to justice. One of the actions identified to achieve the said objective was the creation of specialized divisions and courts for purpose of improving efficiency and effectiveness in delivery of judicial services. The establishment of the Standards, Utilities and Wildlife Court was therefore a welcome innovation. All along, there had been no organised mechanism for an efficient and effective enforcement of rights and obligations in the area of consumer standards, utilities and wildlife.

Capacity Building

Training is necessary to fully equip the key players i.e. judicial officers, the prosecutors, investigators and other court staff. Some training has already been offered to the Judicial Officers, prosecutors and investigators with a view to equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills required in the specialized court. It is however clear that more and constant training is necessary to fully equip these key players to enable them perform to the expectations and to keep them abreast with new trends in this area of adjudication. The key players in the Court also need to keep abreast with amendments to the respective legislations.

It was envisaged that this specialized court would handle criminal offences arising out of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards Act; to penalize manufacturers whose goods and products did not conform to the specified Uganda Standards. In the Weights & Measures Act to handle criminal matters envisaged under the act; those engaging in unfair trade practices.

Cases handled

From the inception of the Court, the court has handled an average of 25 cases related to UNBS mandate per year with a conviction rate of over 98%. Court fines and costs of destruction have amounted to nearly Uganda Shillings 400 million (Four Hundred Million)

Success

The success of the Standards Court has to be evaluated from the starting point of why it was formed in the first place;

  • to eliminate case backlog in the judicial system
  • Shorten the time leads for case disposal. The then Chief Justice in fact at the time of inaugurating the Standards Court reiterated, that he did not expect any backlog to build in this kind of Court.

With numerous capacity building interactions and continuous stakeholder engagements with the Judiciary and ODPP, the average time for concluding cases has greatly improved to 1 – 14 days before conclusion of cases. Previously, the period would take up to six months (at the very least) before a case was concluded. As a result of cases being handled effectively, it has not only shortened time leads for case disposal but also reduced on case backlog. So yes the Standards Court is a big success story !

We look forward to continuous and more fruitful engagement with our all stakeholders.

The writer is a Senior Legal Officer at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards