Dowa magistrate court overwhelmed,suspects face long detention without trial

By Vincent Gunde

Detention without trial is reported to be the order of the day in Dowa district as suspects are being kept for long without being taken to court to hear their charges due to shortage of manpower at the Dowa Magistrate Court, a development which is worrisome.

It is said that the suspects are being remanded at Dowa Police Station’s custody for long in justice denied is justice delayed with the conditions becoming life threatening due to overcrowding and others have lost hope that they will be freed to join their families in their respective homes.

To solve the situation, suspects are being taken to Mkukula Magistrate Court where  court cases are also congested as the presiding Magistrates handle cases brought by Lumbadzi Police Station and Kanengo Police Station.

At Mkukula Magistrate Court, not all cases are heard, suspects are being kept for long and in the end, justice not delivered and are sent back to either Dowa Police Station or Maula Prison to be remanded to come on a later day.

High Court of Malawi Registrar Kondwani Banda is reported to have admitted shortage of presiding Magistrates at Dowa Magistrate Court saying currently, government is finalizing construction of the new Dowa Magistrate Court and once completed, a new Magistrate will be posited.

A Malawi Congress Party (MCP) diehard of Mvera in Dowa district Mr. Rodgers Kamphangala, has appealed to government to consider sending one or two Paralegals to work in the absence of Magistrates so that suspects’ cases can be heard right at the Dowa Police Station.

Kamphangala  observes that Dowa Police Station has an increase number of suspects kept without going to court for their formal charge hearings saying Paralegals can fit in to hear their cases so that others are given bail to walk to freedom.

“If the Paralegals finds that a person arrested for, accused of committing a crime is in the interests of justice that he cannot be released, he or she should be taken to Maula Prison to be tried at the Lilongwe Magistrate Court,” says Kamphangala.

Many cases coming to Dowa Police Station and Magistrate Court are being referred from Dzaleka Refugee Camp, a camp which was designed to accommodate 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers and today, the population has reached between 60-70,000 making crime-rate to be on the increase in the district.