Statutory Interpretation

Shaban Birumba v Uganda ((Cr.Appeal No.32 Of 1989)) [1991] UGSC 3 (20 June 1991);


Search Summary: 

The appellants robbed the complainant using a pistol and
were convicted of aggravated robbery contrary to section
272 and 273(2) (now 285 and 286(2)) of the Penal Code
Act. They appealed against the conviction contending that
the trial judge erroneously ruled that the pistol was deadly
weapon yet it was neither fired during the robbery nor test-

fired to prove that it was capable of causing death.

Headnote and Holding: 

The court considered whether the trial judge erroneously
found that the pistol was deadly weapon. The court held
that the ordinary meaning of “deadly weapon’’ was that
gun had to be capable of causing death or injury. The court
was satisfied that the pistol, though loaded with
ammunition, might not have been an operable gun. The
court accordingly concluded that the appellants’ pistol
wasn’t proved to be a deadly weapon and allowed the
In the dissent judgment, it was held that the provisions of a
later act of parliament couldn’t be rendered ineffective by
earlier provisions which parliament must have been aware
of in enacting the new provisions. The court was satisfied
that according to section 31 of the Firearms Act (enacted in
1970) an imitation firearm, even though it wasn’t made or
adapted for and was not capable of discharging anything,
was a dangerous weapon for the purpose of section 273 of
the Penal Code Act (enacted in 1968). The court
accordingly concluded that the appellants’ pistol was a
deadly weapon.


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