Okao alias Baby & 4 Ors Vs Uganda (Criminal Appeal No. 55,62 & 67 of 2016) [2019] UGCA 94 (2 May 2019)

Criminal law
Case summary
The court considered whether the trial judge erred to rely on the opinion of the assessors yet one of them was absent for part of the trial. The court held that the assessor, having absented himself from part of the trial, should not have been permitted to continue participation and give an opinion in the case. The court was satisfied that allowing the assessor to resume participation in the trial was a fundamental irregularity which occasioned a miscarriage of justice. The court accordingly quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial for the second, third, fourth and fifth appellants. The court also considered whether the first appellant was properly convicted upon his plea of guilty. The court held that while section 63 of the Trial on Indictments Act provided that an accused person would be convicted upon his plea of guilty to the indictment, it was mandatory that after the court had recorded the plea of guilty, the prosecution had to state the facts of the case and the court could only convict the accused on a plea of guilty if he admitted that the facts stated by the prosecution were correct. The court was satisfied that after the appellant had pleaded guilty to the indictment, the state attorney presented the facts which disclosed the circumstances under which the appellant committed the offences which the appellant admitted to be correct. The court accordingly concluded that the first appellant’s plea of guilty to the offences was unequivocal.

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