By Gloria James-Civetta

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Courts Jurisdiction & Powers

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Magistrate Courts shall have jurisdiction to try any offence for which the maximum term of imprisonment provided by law does not exceed five (5) years or which is punishable with a fine only.

The District Courts shall have the power to try any offence for which the maximum term of imprisonment provided by law does not exceed ten (10) years or which is punishable with a fine only.

The Criminal Procedure code 2010 has enlarged the jurisdiction of Subordinate Courts. Section 9 of the Code empowers the Public Prosecutor to authorise a Magistrate’s Court to try an offence which is triable by a District Court but not by a Magistrate’s Court.

Additionally, it authorises a District Court to try certain offences which are not ordinarily within its general jurisdiction.

Disclosure Regime under the Criminal Procedure Code 2010

The Code provides for a disclosure framework in the Subordinate Courts requiring the prosecution and the defence to exchange relevant information about their respective cases before trial.

A criminal case disclosure conference is held for the purposes of settling the following matters:

  • the filing of the Case for the Prosecution and the Case for the Defence;
  • any issues of fact or law which are to be tried by the trial judge at the trial proper;
  • the list of witnesses to be called by the parties to the trial;
  • the statements, documents or exhibits which are intended by the parties to the case to be admitted at the trial; and
  • the trial date.

If either party fails to serve its case, or files an incomplete Case for the Prosecution or Case for the Defence, as the case may be, or advances an argument at trial which is inconsistent with its previously filed case, the court may draw any inference it thinks fit.

In addition, where the prosecution fails to comply with its obligations under this Disclosure Regime, the court may order a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in relation to the charge.

The criminal case disclosure procedure will apply to an offence specified in the Second Schedule of the Code and to be tried in a District Court. The accused may opt out of the system if he prefers. For Magistrate’s Court cases, the procedure will apply if all parties consent.

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