Over 400 manslaughter suspects are languishing in jail in the Southern Region alone, a development created partly because there is no money for their prosecution in court, The Daily Times has established.
Documents we have seen, compiled by the Malawi Prisons Service (MPS) and sent to the judiciary, show that some suspects have been on remand as early as 2003 without being formally charged.
And sources privy to prosecutions of homicide casesâ confided in this paper that all this has come about because funding towards such cases has been drastically cut, thereby crippling the courts to try such cases.
According to our sources, in 2009, the judiciary used to get as much as K50 million towards prosecution of homicide cases in the region.
One homicide case may need up to K300,000 to complete considering that it involves travelling to crime scenes and meeting accommodation, food and travel costs of state witnesses if need be and the like.
âHowever, in the 2012/13 financial year, only K25 million was allocated for the same which is only sufficient for only 83 cases if we use the benchmark of K300,000 per homicide case, hence the courtâs snailâs pace on homicide cases,â said the source.
Judiciary spokesperson Michael Tembo could neither refute nor confirm the development in an e-mailed response to a questionnaire on the development.
He, however, said the court heard few cases from the ones received last year and the rest are pending hearing.
âLet me say that last year the Judiciary registered 183 homicide cases for trial. The High Court concluded 51 of these cases and 132 cases are still pending hearing at various stages,â he said.
Tembo said a single homicide case may cost up to K125,000 but said this amount swings depending on the number of witnesses and complexity of the case itself among other factors.
He did not, however, say anything on the funding cuts. Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya, when contacted on the funding cuts, said his department stopped providing direct allocation to specific activities in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
âIt is now left up to them [Ministry] to decide on how much to allocate to what activity, and not us dictating. You will note that what has been going to the Ministry of Justice has not gone down,â Msowoya said.
He said this reduction in funding towards homicide cases could be a result of prioritisation at the Ministry of Justice and not necessarily at the Treasury.
âAs we were making funding adjustments in response to the devaluation, every ministry was affected but the Ministry of Justice was not that much affected.
âAnd, as you have observed, we have also noticed that they are not prioritising homicide cases. So, we will discuss with them and see how they can be helped,â Msowoya said.
There was no immediate response from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. On his part, Malawi Prison Services spokesperson Evans Phiri while not confirming or denying the said remandeesâ list, said prison authorities also help remandees whose cases are not brought before the court when there is need.
âWe use our [MPS] paralegals and at times even non MPS paralegals to help in following up cases of remandees who donât know that they could have legal representation in the cases.
âIt is also these paralegals who make follow ups on dormant cases until such cases are concluded in the court,â said Phiri, adding the main problem rocking prisons is congestion. – By Simeon Maganga
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