CHIEF Justice, Ernest Sakala has revealed that sexual offences such as defilement, topped the list of convicted persons in Zambian prisons despite the stiff laws in place.
Justice Sakala says that offences of defilement had continued to rank amongst the highest, with police records showing that 1,089 defilement and 75 rape cases were recorded last year in Lusaka alone.
He said that it was worrying that despite the enactment of the Sexual Offences Minimum Act, which prescribed a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment for sexual offences, perpetrators had continued.
Justice Sakala called for a holistic approach to seeking a lasting solution. He was speaking in Lusaka yesterday at the official opening of the High Court criminal sessions for 2012.
At the same event, Vice-President, Guy Scott, implored the Judiciary to assist the Executive wing of Government in the fight against corruption.
Dr Scott said corruption was a disease that permeated the Zambian governance system and that the judiciary was not immune to it.
He said efficient service delivery by any State institution was dependent on the elimination of corruption.
“The commitment of the Patriotic Front (PF) Government to ending corruption in Zambia extends through the Executive, Legislature, the private sector, both local and foreign investors included, and indeed the Judiciary.
“Please accept our invitation and ensure that the judiciary participates in cleaning its own house,” he said.
Dr Scott said the Government was aware of the difficulties that the
Judiciary was faced with and promised to resolve them. The PF government was committed to ensuring that the Judiciary functioned efficiently through addressing the major challenges.
In Ndola, High Court Judge, Timothy Katanekwa, echoed the Chief Justice’s sentiments saying sexual offences have not reduced despite the harsh punishments given to offenders.
Mr Justice Katanekwa, however, expressed happiness with the Judiciary’s decision to increase the establishment of judges at the Ndola High Court to six as this would help speed up justice delivery.
In Livingstone, Southern Province Minister, Miles Sampa, challenged the Judiciary to ensure that it operated in a corrupt free environment in order to handle all cases fairly.
Mr Sampa said the Judiciary was a mirror of the nation hence it should
not allow corruption to erode the dignity and good image of the institution.
In Kitwe, Mayor Chileshe Bweupe, advised the citizenry to desist from attacking the Judiciary before getting facts.
Mr Bweupe said members of the public should not condemn the courts’ decisions unless they were knowledgeable about the applicable law leading to certain decisions.
Kabwe High Court Judge in-charge, Eddie Sikazwe, said the high number of inmates at 3,000 in the province has partly resulted from the non-availability of transport to round up witnesses.
The Judge said there were currently more than 3, 000 inmates in the prisons in the province.
In Mansa, High Court Judge, Chalwe Mchenga, appealed to the Government
to put in place measures that will make inmates’ stay in prison as
humane as possible.
Mr Justice Mchenga said the difficulties being faced by the Zambia Prison Service, law enforcement wings and auxiliary government departments required to be addressed with utmost urgency.