New study: Poverty, corruption hinders youths’ access to justice

A 2018 study conducted by Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) has revealed that the cost of the procedures of justice inform of money spent on legal fees, travel when pursuing or defending cases and out of pocket expenses linked to cases stood out on the list of factors limiting access to justice by the youths.

The study titled Access to Justice for Youths in Uganda: vulnerability, Poverty and Corruption Hindrances, was conducted among 190 participants in 13 districts around the country.

The study sought to establish the justice needs of youths, barriers associated to access to justice, examine corruption hindrances and later provide recommendations to government to ensure justice is attained by the youths.

According to Associate Professor Christopher Mbazira from Makerere University’s School of Law who was the lead researcher in study, the time spent in searching for information in the line of acquiring justice, attend hearings, long stays in pre-trial detention, resultant loss arising from absence from work and stress resulting from a tedious and economically straining justice process are high cost that youths cannot afford to access justice.

While youths dominate 75% of Uganda’s population, a number of them are still living below the poverty line due to high unemployment rates in the country which makes them vulnerable.

“Largely youths are vulnerable because a large population of them is unemployed so they end up engaging in crime which puts them in position where they need legal representation; Unfortunately we found that they have little access to justice because they cannot afford lawyers, the majority of them are unemployed,” said Mbazira

According to the report, government needs to establish programs to empower youths but also avail legal services to the youths.

“Just like there are special legal programs targeting women and children as a vulnerable group, there should be such programs for the youths as well especially since they occupy the largest population of Uganda,” Mbaziira said.

The Executive Director of LASPNET Sylvia Namubiru said that for government to better access to justice by youths, they should educate the youths and involve them more in the justice system.

She urged government to avail legal aid services to the youths by instituting state legal providers.

According to the report, 63% of prisoners are youths remanded or convicted on different cases and yet many cannot afford private services of legal practitioners like lawyers.

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development Pius Bigirimana who launched the report urged the youths to take advantage of the youth livelihood fund to avert the issue of poverty among youths.