• September 22nd, 2019

Malawi magistrates urged to use alternatives to imprisonment


Moses Magadza

LILONGWE, MALAWI - The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (Unodc) has held a series of training sessions on alternative sentencing for Malawi magistrates in line with recommendations of United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (The Tokyo Rules).

One hundred and fifty-six magistrates from all the regions participated in the awareness and capacity building on alternative sentencing. The training took the form of presentations, discussions and group work. A team of four facilitators who included three High Court Judges and the Chief Executive of the Centre for Human Right Education, Advice and Assistance), were involved in the training.

Adopted by General Assembly in 1990, the Tokyo Rules provide guidelines and safeguards for persons subject to alternatives to imprisonment while also promoting greater community involvement in the management of criminal justice. They also promote among offenders a sense of responsibility towards society. Additionally, they seek to promote human rights and support rehabilitation of the offender for successful reintegration into mainstream society.

In a speech delivered during the training of magistrates in different parts of Malawi last week, the Honourable Justice Dr Chifundo Kachale, a Judge of the High Court of Malawi, expressed optimism that the training would build the capacity of the country’s magistrates to use custodial sentences wisely.

“As magistrates, whilst we sit on the bench, presiding over matters and in the application of the available legal instruments for each unique case, we are required to make sufficient considerations before passing our judgements. Among the paramount considerations is whether to give a custodial sentence or otherwise,” he said.

Justice Kachale hopes the training would, to the extent possible, result in uniformity of sentencing “otherwise we often risk ending up with scenarios where each judicial officer concludes a case in ways contrary to the other.”

In Malawi, community service was introduced as an alternative to custodial sentence in the year 2000. The judge said if applied, it could reduce the number of prisoners and by extension, overcrowding Malawi prisons.  

“From the reports from the Malawi Inspectorate of Prisons, it is quite clear that prison conditions in Malawi are overly inconvenient with appalling living conditions for inmates. Although seemingly peripheral to our work as magistrates, this is a factor we must consider when passing judgments,” the Judge advised.

During the training, participants discussed prison conditions in Malawi as outlined by the Prisons Inspectorate and other relevant issues. 

Moses Magadza is Communications Officer for Unodc Regional Office for Southern Africa.


Staff Reporter
2019-07-05 09:22:15 2 months ago

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