Trial on Indictments Act
- Commenced on 6 August 1971
- [Up to date as at 14 February 2020]
- [Note: This version of the Act was revised and consolidated by the Law Reform Commission of Uganda.]
- [Amended by Trial on Indictments (Amendment) Act, 2008 (Act 23 of 2008) on 5 December 2008]
- [Amended by Persons with Disabilities Act, 2020 (Act 3 of 2020) on 14 February 2020]
Part I – Jurisdiction and mode of trial
1. Jurisdiction of the High CourtThe High Court shall have jurisdiction to try any offence under any written law and may pass any sentence authorised by law; except that no criminal case shall be brought under the cognisance of the High Court for trial unless the accused person has been committed for trial to the High Court in accordance with the Magistrates Courts Act.
2. Sentencing powers of the High Court
4. Place and date of sessions of the High Court
Part II – Warrant of arrest
5. Warrant of arrestThe High Court may issue a warrant of arrest at any time to secure the attendance of the accused person.
6. Form, contents and duration of warrant of arrest
7. Warrants, to whom directed
8. Execution of warrant directed to a police officerA warrant directed to any police officer may also be executed by any other police officer whose name is endorsed upon the warrant by the officer to whom it is directed or endorsed, and similarly a warrant directed to any chief may be executed by any other chief whose name is endorsed on the warrant by the chief to whom it was directed or endorsed.
9. Notification of substance of warrantThe police officer or other person executing a warrant of arrest shall notify the substance of the warrant to the person to be arrested and, if so required, shall show him or her the warrant.
10. Person arrested to be brought before the court without delayThe police officer or other person executing a warrant of arrest shall, without unnecessary delay, bring the person arrested before the High Court.
11. Where warrant of arrest may be executedA warrant of arrest may be executed at any place in Uganda.
12. Irregularities in warrant of arrestAny irregularity or defect in the substance or form of a warrant of arrest, and any variance between it and the indictment, or between either and the evidence produced on the part of the prosecution at any trial, shall not affect the validity of any proceedings at or subsequent to the hearing of the case.
13. Power of court to order prisoner to be brought before it
14. Release on bail
15. Refusal to grant bail
16. Restriction on period of pretrial remandIf an accused person has been remanded in custody before the commencement of his or her trial—(a)in respect of any offence punishable by death, for a continuous period exceeding four hundred and eighty days; or(b)in respect of any other offence, for a continuous period exceeding two hundred and forty days,the judge before whom he or she first appears after the expiration of the relevant period shall release him or her on bail on his or her own recognisance, notwithstanding that he or she is accused of an offence referred to in section 15(1), unless—(c)he or she has, prior to the expiration of that period, been committed to the High Court for trial; or(d)the judge is satisfied that it is for the protection of the public that he or she should not be released from custody.
17. Power to order sufficient bail
18. Discharge of sureties
19. Death of suretyWhere a surety to a bond dies before the bond is forfeited, his or her estate shall be discharged from all liability in respect of the bond, but the party who gave the bond may be required to find a new surety.
20. Persons bound by recognisance absconding may be committedIf it is made to appear to the High Court, by information on oath, that any person bound by recognisance is about to leave Uganda, the court may cause him or her to be arrested and may commit him or her to prison until the trial, unless the court shall see fit to admit him or her to bail upon further recognisance.
21. Forfeiture of recognisance
Part III – Indictments
22. Contents of indictmentEvery indictment shall contain, and shall be sufficient if it contains, a statement of the specific offence or offences with which the accused person is charged, together with such particulars as may be necessary for giving reasonable information as to the nature of the offence charged.
23. Joinder of counts
24. Joinder of personsThe following persons may be joined in one indictment and may be tried together—(a)persons accused of the same offence committed in the course of the same transaction;(b)persons accused of an offence and persons accused of abetment or of an attempt to commit that offence;(c)persons accused of more offences than one of the same kind (that is to say, offences punishable with the same amount of punishment under the same section of the Penal Code Act or of any other written law) committed by them jointly within a period of twelve months;(d)persons accused of different offences committed in the course of the same transaction;(e)persons accused of any offence under Chapters XXV to XXIX inclusive of the Penal Code Act and persons accused of receiving or retaining property, possession of which is alleged to have been transferred by any such offence committed by the first-named persons, or of abetment of or attempting to commit either of the last-named offences;(f)persons accused of any offence relating to counterfeit coin under Chapter XXXV of the Penal Code Act, and persons accused of any other offence under that chapter relating to the same coin, or of abetment of, or attempting to commit, any such offence.
25. Rules for the framing of indictmentsThe following provisions shall apply to all indictments and, notwithstanding any rule of law or practice, an indictment shall, subject to this Act, not be open to objection in respect of its form or contents if it is framed in accordance with this Act—(a)a count of an indictment shall commence with a statement of the offence charged, called the statement of offence;(b)the statement of offence shall describe the offence shortly in ordinary language, avoiding as far as possible the use of technical terms and without necessarily stating all the essential elements of the offence, and it shall contain a reference to the section of the enactment creating the offence;(c)after the statement of the offence, particulars of that offence shall be set out in ordinary language, in which the use of technical terms shall not be necessary; but where any written law limits the particulars of an offence which are required to be given in an indictment, nothing in this paragraph shall require any more particulars to be given than those so required;(d)where an indictment contains more than one count, the counts shall be numbered consecutively;(e)where an enactment constituting an offence states the offence to be the doing or the omission to do any one of any different acts in the alternative, or the doing or the omission to do any act in any one of any different capacities, or with any one of different intentions, or states any part of the offence in the alternative, the acts, omissions, capacities or intentions, or other matters stated in the alternative in the enactment, may be stated in the alternative in the count charging the offence;(f)it shall not be necessary, in any count charging an offence constituted by an enactment, to negative any exception or exemption from, or qualification to, the operation of the enactment creating the offence;(g)the description of property in an indictment shall be in ordinary language and such as to indicate with reasonable clearness the property referred to; and if the property is so described, it shall not be necessary, except when required for the purpose of describing an offence depending on any special ownership of property or special value of property, to name the person to whom the property belongs or the value of the property;(h)where property is vested in more than one person, and the owners of the property are referred to in an indictment, it shall be sufficient to describe the property as owned by one of those persons by name with the others; and if the persons owning the property are a body of persons with a collective name, such as a joint stock company or “inhabitants”, “trustees”, “commissioners” or “club” or other such name, it shall be sufficient to use the collective name without naming any individual;(i)property belonging to or provided for the use of any public establishment, service or department may be described as the property of the Government;(j)coin, bank notes and currency notes may be described as money; and any allegation as to money, so far as regards the description of the property, shall be sustained by proof of any amount of coin or of any bank or currency note (although the particular species of coin of which the amount was composed, or the particular nature of the bank or currency note, shall not be provided), and, in case of stealing and defrauding by false pretences, by proof that the accused person dishonestly appropriated or obtained any coin or any bank or currency note, or any portion of the value of any coin or bank or currency note, although the coin or bank or currency note may have been delivered to him or her in order that some part of its value should be returned to the party delivering it or to any other person and that part shall have been returned accordingly;(k)when a person is indicted for any offence under sections 268, 269, 270 and 271 of the Penal Code Act, it shall be sufficient to specify the gross amount of property in respect of which the offence is alleged to have been committed and the dates between which the offence is alleged to have been committed without specifying particular items or exact dates;(l)the description or designation in an indictment of the accused person, or of any other person to whom reference is made in the indictment, shall be such as is reasonably sufficient to identify him or her, without necessarily stating his or her correct name, or his or her abode, style, degree or occupation; and if, owing to the name of the person not being known, or for any other reason, it is impracticable to give such a description or designation, the description or designation shall be given as is reasonably practicable in the circumstances, or the person may be described as “a person unknown”;(m)where it is necessary to refer to any document or instrument in an indictment, it shall be sufficient to describe it by any name or designation by which it is usually known, or by the purport of the document or instrument, without setting out any copy of it;(n)subject to any other provisions of this section, it shall be sufficient to describe any place, time, thing, matter, act or omission whatsoever to which it is necessary to refer in any indictment in ordinary language in such a manner as to indicate with reasonable clearness the place, time, thing, matter, act or omission referred to;(o)it shall not be necessary in stating any intent to defraud, deceive or injure, to state an intent to defraud, deceive or injure any particular person, where the enactment creating the offence does not make an intent to defraud, deceive or injure a particular person an essential ingredient of the offence;(p)where a previous conviction of an offence is averred in an indictment, it shall be averred at the end of the indictment by means of a statement that the accused person has been previously convicted of that offence at a certain time and place without stating the particulars of the offence;(q)figures and abbreviations may be used for expressing anything which is commonly expressed by figures and abbreviations.
26. Indictment to be in the name of the Director of Public ProsecutionsAll indictments shall be in the name of and, subject to section 135, signed by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
27. Form of indictment
Part IV – Previous conviction or acquittal
28. Persons convicted or acquitted not to be tried again for the same offenceA person who has been once tried by a court of competent jurisdiction for an offence and convicted or acquitted of that offence shall, while the conviction or acquittal has not been reversed or set aside, not be liable to be tried again on the same facts for the same offence.
29. Persons may be tried again for a separate offenceA person convicted or acquitted of any offence may afterwards be tried for any other offence with which he or she might have been charged on the former trial under section 23(1).
30. Consequences supervening or not known at time of former trialA person convicted or acquitted of any act causing consequences which together with that act constitute a different offence from that for which that person was convicted or acquitted may be afterwards tried for that last-mentioned offence, if the consequences had not happened or were not known to the court to have happened at the time when he or she was acquitted or convicted.
31. Where original court was not competent to try subsequent chargeA person convicted or acquitted of any offence constituted by any acts may, notwithstanding the conviction or acquittal, be subsequently charged with and tried for any other offence constituted by the same acts which he or she may have committed, if the court by which he or she was first tried was not competent to try the offence with which he or she is subsequently charged.
32. Previous conviction or acquittal, how proved
Part V – Witnesses and evidence
33. Summons for witness
34. Warrant for witness who disobeys summonsIf, without sufficient excuse, a witness does not appear in obedience to the summons, the High Court, on proof of the proper service of the summons a reasonable time before, may issue a warrant to bring him or her before the court at such time and place as shall be specified in the warrant.
35. Warrant for witness in first instanceIf the High Court is satisfied by evidence on oath that the person will not attend unless compelled to do so, it may at once issue a warrant for the arrest and production of the witness before the court at a time and place to be specified in the warrant.
36. Mode of dealing with witness arrested under warrantWhen any witness is arrested under a warrant, the High Court may, on his or her furnishing security by recognisance to the satisfaction of the court for his or her appearance at the hearing of the case, order him or her to be released from custody, or shall on his or her failing to furnish the security, order him or her to be detained for production at the hearing.
37. Power of court to order prisoner to be brought up for examination
38. Penalty for nonattendance of witness
39. Power to summon material witness or examine person present
40. Evidence to be given on oath
41. Refractory witness
42. Reports by Government analyst, ballistic expert and geologist
43. Competency of accused as witnessEvery person indicted for an offence shall be a competent witness for the defence at every stage of the proceedings, whether the person so charged is charged solely or jointly with any other person; but—(a)a person so indicted shall not be called as a witness in pursuance of this section except upon his or her own application;(b)the failure of any person indicted for an offence to give evidence shall not be made the subject of any comment by the prosecution;(c)every person called as a witness in pursuance of this section shall, unless otherwise ordered by the court, give his or her evidence from the witness box or other place from which the other witnesses have given their evidence;(d)nothing in this section shall affect any right of the accused person to make a statement without being sworn.
44. Procedure when person charged is the only witness calledWhere the only witness to the facts of the case called by the defence is the person charged, he or she shall be called as a witness immediately after the close of the evidence for the prosecution.
Part VI – Procedure in case of the insanity or other incapacity of an accused person
45. Inquiry by the court as to the insanity of the accused
46. Procedure when the accused is certified as capable of making his or her defence
47. Resumption of trial
48. Special finding of not guilty by reason of insanity
49. Procedure when the accused does not understand the proceedings
Part VII – Proceedings at the trial
50. Orders for alteration of indictment
51. Procedure when indictment altered
52. Separate trials
53. Power to postpone or adjourn proceedings
54. Trial of accused in his or her absence
55. Right of accused to be defendedAny person accused of an offence before the High Court may of right be defended by an advocate, at his or her own expense.
56. Interpretation of evidence to accused or his or her advocate
57. Interpretation of documentsWhen documents are put in for the purpose of formal proof, it shall be in the discretion of the court to interpret as much of them as appears necessary.
58. Quashing of indictment
59. Procedure in case of previous convictionsWhere an indictment contains a count charging an accused person with having been previously convicted for any offence, the procedure shall be as follows—(a)the part of the indictment stating the previous conviction shall not be read out in court, nor shall the accused be asked whether he or she has been previously convicted as alleged in the indictment, unless he or she has either pleaded guilty to or been convicted of the subsequent offence;(b)if he or she pleads guilty to or is convicted of the subsequent offence, he or she shall then be asked whether he or she has been previously convicted as alleged in the indictment;(c)if he or she answers that he or she has been so previously convicted, the judge may proceed to pass sentence on him or her accordingly; but if he or she denies that he or she has been so previously convicted, or refuses to or does not answer the question, the court shall then hear evidence concerning such previous conviction;except, however, that if upon the trial of any person for any such subsequent offence the person shall give evidence of his or her own good character, it shall be lawful for the advocate for the prosecution in answer thereto to give evidence of the conviction of the person for the previous offence or offences before a finding of guilty is entered, and the court shall inquire concerning such previous conviction or convictions at the same time as it inquires concerning such subsequent offence.
60. Pleading to indictmentThe accused person to be tried before the High Court shall be placed at the bar unfettered, unless the court shall cause otherwise to order, and the indictment shall be read over to him or her by the chief registrar or other officer of the court, and explained if need be by that officer or interpreted by the interpreter of the court; and the accused person shall be required to plead instantly to the indictment, unless, where the accused person is entitled to service of a copy of the indictment, he or she shall object to the want of such service, and the court shall find that he or she has not been duly served with a copy.
61. Plea of autrefois acquit and autrefois convict
62. Refusal to pleadIf any accused person being arraigned upon any indictment stands mute of malice, or neither will, nor by reason of infirmity can, answer directly to the indictment, the court if it thinks fit, shall enter a plea of not guilty on behalf of the accused person, and the plea so entered shall have the same force and effect as if the accused person had actually pleaded not guilty; or else the court may if it has reason to believe that the accused person is of unsound mind or cannot be made to understand the nature of the proceedings act in accordance with either section 45 or 49 as the circumstances may require.
63. Plea of guiltyIf the accused pleads guilty, the plea shall be recorded and he or she may be convicted on it.
64. Plea of guilty to offence other than that chargedWhere the accused is arraigned on an indictment for any offence and can lawfully be convicted on that indictment of some other offence not charged in the indictment, he or she may plead not guilty to the offence charged in the indictment, but guilty of that other offence; but the court shall not accept a plea of guilty under this section unless the advocate for the prosecution has signified his or her consent.
65. Proceedings after a plea of not guiltyIf the accused person pleads not guilty, or a plea of not guilty is entered in accordance with section 62, the court shall (subject to the provisions of section 66) proceed to choose assessors and to try the case.
66. Preliminary hearing
67. Oath of assessorAt the commencement of the trial and, where the provisions of section 66 are applicable, after the preliminary hearing has been concluded, each assessor shall take an oath impartially to advise the court to the best of his or her knowledge, skill and ability on the issues pending before the court.
68. Challenge for cause
69. Absence of assessor
70. Assessors to attend adjourned sittingsIf a trial is adjourned, the assessors shall be required to attend at the adjourned sitting and any subsequent sitting until the conclusion of the trial.
71. Opening of case for the prosecutionWhen the assessors have been chosen, the advocate for the prosecution shall open the case against the accused person and shall call witnesses and adduce evidence in support of the indictment.
72. Cross-examination of witnesses for the prosecutionThe witnesses called for the prosecution shall be subject to cross-examination by the accused person or his or her advocate and to reexamination by the advocate for the prosecution.
73. Close of case for the prosecution
75. Witnesses for the defenceThe accused person shall be allowed to examine any witness if the witness is in attendance, but he or she shall not be entitled as of right to have any witness summoned other than the witnesses whom he or she named to the magistrates’s court committing him or her for trial as witnesses whom he or she desired to be summoned.
76. Evidence in replyIf the accused person adduces evidence in his or her defence introducing new matter which the prosecution could not by the exercise of reasonable diligence have foreseen, the court may allow the prosecution to adduce evidence in reply to contradict that matter.
77. Prosecutor’s replySubject to section 78, if the accused person, or any one of several accused persons, adduces any evidence, the advocate for the prosecution shall be entitled to reply.
78. Right of replyIn cases where the right of reply depends upon the question whether evidence has been called for the defence, the fact that the person charged has been called as a witness shall not of itself confer on the prosecution the right of reply.
79. Additional material factsNo additional material fact which does not form part of the summary of the case against an accused person shall be alleged by the prosecution unless the prosecution has given reasonable notice in writing to the accused person or his or her advocate of the intention to allege that fact, but no such notice need be given if the prosecution first becomes aware of it on the day on which it is alleged in evidence during the trial.
80. Additional powers of the court
81. Assessors and confessions
82. Verdict and sentence
83. Drawing up conviction or orderThe conviction or order may, if required, be afterwards drawn up and shall be signed by the court making the conviction or order, or by the clerk or other officer of the court.
84. Order of acquittal bar to further proceedingsThe production of a copy of the order of acquittal, certified by the clerk or other officer of the court, shall without other proof be a bar to any subsequent proceedings for the same matter against the same accused person.
85. Mode of delivering judgment
86. Contents of judgment
87. Person charged may be convicted of minor offenceWhen a person is charged with an offence and facts are proved which reduce it to a minor cognate offence, he or she may be convicted of the minor offence although he or she was not charged with it.
88. Conviction for attemptWhen a person is charged with an offence, he or she may be convicted of having attempted to commit that offence, although he or she was not charged with the attempt.
89. Conviction for being an accessory after the factWhen a person is charged with an offence, he or she may be convicted of being an accessory after the fact to the commission of that offence although he or she was not so charged.
90. Convictions in respect of charges relating to death of a child
91. Certain sections of Magistrates Courts Act to applyWhen a person is indicted for any of the offences mentioned in sections 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154 or 155 of the Magistrates Courts Act, those sections of that Act shall be construed as if references to a “court” included references to the High Court.
92. Construction of sections 87 to 91The provisions of sections 87 to 91 shall be construed as in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other written law and the other provisions of this Act, and the provisions of sections 88 to 91 shall be construed as being without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of section 87.
93. Person charged with misdemeanour not to be acquitted if felony provedIf on any trial before the High Court for misdemeanour the facts proved in evidence amount to felony, the accused shall not be therefore acquitted of the misdemeanour; and no person tried for the misdemeanour shall be liable afterwards to be prosecuted for felony on the same facts, unless the court before which the trial may be had shall think fit, in its discretion, to refrain from recording a finding upon that trial, and to direct that person to be prosecuted for felony, in which case that person may be dealt with in all respects as if he or she had not been put upon his or her trial for the misdemeanour.
94. Calling upon the accusedIf the accused person is found guilty or pleads guilty, the judge shall ask him or her whether he or she has anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon him or her according to law, but the omission so to ask him or her shall have no effect on the validity of the proceedings.
95. Motion in arrest of judgment
96. SentenceIf no motion in arrest of judgment is made, or if the court decides against the accused person upon the motion, the court may pass sentence upon the accused person or make an order against him or her at any time during the session.
97. Objections cured by verdictNo judgment shall be stayed or reversed on the ground of any objection, which if stated after the indictment was read over to the accused person, or during the progress of the trial, might have been amended by the court, nor for any informality in swearing the witnesses or any of them.
98. Inquiry may be made prior to passing sentenceThe court, before passing any sentence other than a sentence of death, may make such inquiries as it thinks fit in order to inform itself as to the proper sentence to be passed, and may inquire into the character and antecedents of the accused person either at the request of the prosecution or the accused person and may take into consideration in assessing the proper sentence to be passed such character and antecedents including any other offences committed by the accused person whether or not he or she has been convicted of those offences; except that—(a)the accused person shall be given an opportunity to confirm, deny or explain any statement made about him or her and in any case of doubt the court shall in the absence of legal proof of the statement ignore the statement;(b)no offence of which the accused person has not been convicted shall be taken into consideration in assessing the proper sentence unless the accused person specifically agrees that the offence shall be taken into consideration and a note of that request shall have been recorded in the proceedings; and(c)if for any reason the sentence passed by the court is set aside, the accused person shall not be entitled to plead autrefois convict in respect of any offence taken into consideration in assessing the sentence that was set aside.
Part VIII – Sentences and their execution
99. Sentence of death
100. Accused to be informed of right to appealWhen an accused person is sentenced to death, the court shall inform him or her of the period within which, if he or she wishes to appeal, his or her appeal should be preferred.
101. Authority for detentionA certificate, under the hand of the judge by whom any person has been sentenced, that sentence of death has been passed and naming the person condemned, shall be sufficient authority for the detention of that person.
102. Record and report to be sent to Minister
103. Sentence of death on pregnant womanWhere a woman convicted of an offence punishable with death is found in accordance with section 104 to be pregnant, the sentence to be passed on her shall be a sentence of imprisonment for life instead of a sentence of death.
104. Evidence of pregnancy
105. Sentence of death on person under eighteen years
106. Warrant in case of sentence of imprisonment
107. Prisons in which sentences of imprisonment may be served
108. Mitigation of penalties
109. ***[section 109 repealed by section 3 of Act 23 of 2008]
110. FinesWhere a fine is imposed by the High Court under the provisions of any law, in fixing the amount of the fine, the court shall take into consideration, among other things, the means of the offender so far as they are known to the court, and in the absence of express provisions relating to the fine in any such law, the following provisions shall apply—(a)where no sum is expressed to which the fine may extend, the amount of the fine which may be imposed is unlimited, but shall not be excessive;(b)in the case of an offence punishable with a fine or a period of imprisonment, the imposition of a fine or a period of imprisonment shall be a matter for the discretion of the court;(c)in the case of an offence punishable with imprisonment as well as a fine in which the offender is sentenced to a fine with or without imprisonment, and in every case of an offence punishable with fine only in which the offender is sentenced to a fine, the court passing sentence may, in its discretion—(i)direct by its sentence that in default of payment of the fine the offender shall suffer imprisonment for a certain period, which imprisonment shall be in addition to any other imprisonment to which he or she may have been sentenced or to which he or she may be liable under a commutation of sentence; and also(ii)issue a warrant for the levy of the amount on the immovable and movable property of the offender by distress and sale under warrant; but if the sentence directs that in default of payment of the fine the offender shall be imprisoned, and if the offender has undergone the whole of the imprisonment in default, no court shall issue a distress warrant unless for special reasons to be recorded in writing it considers it necessary to do so;(d)the period of imprisonment ordered by a court in respect of the nonpayment of any sum of money adjudged to be paid by a conviction or in respect of the default of a sufficient distress to satisfy any such sum shall be such term as in the opinion of the court will satisfy the justice of the case, but shall not exceed in any case the maximum fixed by the following scale—
|Not exceeding shs. 20||7 days|
|Exceeding shs. 20 but not exceeding shs. 100||1 month|
|Exceeding shs. 100 but not exceeding shs. 400||6 weeks|
|Exceeding shs. 400 but not exceeding shs. 1,000||3 months|
|Exceeding shs. 1,000||12 months|