The impact of the Plea negociations and agreements ACT no.20 0f 2010 on the criminal justice system in Zambia
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This study examines the implications of adopting formal plea bargaining through the enactment of the Act, juxtaposed against the general concept of plea bargains and its advantages and disadvantages. It examines plea bargaining in Zambia under the Plea Negotiations and Agreements Act, No. 20 of 2010, particularly the manner in which it alters the informal plea bargaining framework that existed prior to the Act. The research is based on primary sources of information which are mostly foreign as the formal plea bargaining in Zambia is a novel idea which as yet, has had very little usage. The study also takes into account the historical evolution of the practice of plea bargaining under Anglo- American criminal justice systems, seeking to find out whether the historical factors that gave to the practice are present under the Zambian legal regime. It has been posited that the emergence of professionalization of prosecutorial and criminal investigative authorities and complexity of rules of evidence in criminal trials provided impetus for the adoption of plea bargaining as a means of speedily resolving caseloads in Anglo-American criminal justice dispensation. This research has found that under the Zambian system, only the large amount of caseloads can be posited as a reason to embrace plea bargaining. It has been discovered that the principle movers of the plea bargaining process are the public prosecutors and the accused, through defence counsel. Because plea negotiations in Zambia cannot be carried out without legal representation of the accused, the process is in essence driven by lawyers. This brings about attendant dangers such as abuse of powers of the prosecutor, for instance coercion. It has been found that the Act's insistence on legal representation allays such dangers. It has been acknowledged that legal fees are quite prohibitive and as such, many accused will not be able to afford legal counsel. The Act attempts to aid this ill by providing for the opportunity for an accused to avail himself legal aid. It is recommened that for this to work, there must be increased funding of the Legal Aid Board so as to better serve the purposes of the Act. The judiciary also has a regulatory role to play in ensuring that the process of plea bargaining is not abused and the dispensation of justice is hindered. This is manifested through the overall power of the courts to test the voluntariness of guilty pleas and refuse to accept any coerced or otherwise improperly conducted negotiations. While the enactment of the Plea Negotiations and Agreements Act is a laudable exercise, there is still need for improvement. In its current state, the Act will have limited efficacy in achieving its goals mainly because its scope is limited only to charge bargaining. In order to allay this, sentence bargaining must be introduced to the plea negotiation procedure.
- Law