THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
IN THE HIGH COURT OF UGANDA SITTING AT ARUA
CRIMINAL CASE No. 0097 OF 2015
UGANDA ……………………………..……………………….……… PROSECUTOR
OKETHI ALFRED …………………….……………….………………. ACCUSED
Before: Hon Justice Stephen Mubiru.
SENTENCE AND REASONS FOR SENTENCE
This case came up on 27th September 2016, in a special session for plea bargaining. The accused was indicted with the offence of Murder c/s 188 and 189 of The Penal Code Act. It was alleged that on 1st February 2015 at Olyeko Trading Centre, Angal Lower Parish, Nyaravur Sub-county in Nebbi District, the accused murdered Oweki Justine.
When the case was called, the learned State Attorney, Mr. Emmanuel Pirimba reported that he had successfully negotiated a plea bargain with the accused and his counsel. The court then allowed the State Attorney to introduce the plea agreement and obtained confirmation of this fact from defence counsel on state brief, Mr. Samuel Ondoma. The court then went ahead to ascertain that the accused had full understanding of what a guilty plea means and its consequences, the voluntariness of the accused’s consent to the bargain and appreciation of its implication in terms of waiver of the constitutional rights specified in the first section of the plea agreement. The Court being satisfied that there was a factual basis for the plea, and having made the finding that the accused made a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent plea bargain, and after he had executed a confirmation of the agreement, went ahead to receive the agreement to form part of the record. The accused was then allowed to take plea whereupon a plea of guilty was entered.
The court then invited the learned State Attorney to narrate the factual basis for the guilty plea, whereupon he narrated the following facts; on 20th January 2015, at about 9.00 pm, at a bar in Olyeko Trading Centre the accused picked a quarrel with his brother and they fought. The deceased intervened and asked the accused why he was assaulting his brother. After the brother of the accused escaped, the accused turned round and blamed the deceased for joining his brother in assaulting him. He jumped and kicked the deceased on the chest. The deceased fell down, hit his head on the ground and became unconscious. He was rushed to hospital where he was admitted nut dies three days after. The accused was arrested by the L.Cs and handed over to Nebbi Police Station. A postmortem examination of the body of the deceased revealed that he died from a head injury that caused increased intracranial pressure. The accused too was medically examined and found to be of sound mind. Both police forms were received as part of the facts.
Upon ascertaining from the accused that the facts as stated were correct, he was convicted on his own plea of guilty for the offence of Murder c/s 188 and 189 of the Penal Code Act. In justification of the sentence of ten (10) years’ imprisonment proposed in the plea agreement, the learned State Attorney adopted the aggravating factors outlined in the plea agreement as follows; - the offence attracts a maximum penalty of death, the offence is rampant in the region, life is sacred and should be respected by all.
In his submissions in mitigation of sentence, the learned defence counsel adopted the mitigating factors outlined in the plea agreement which are that; - the accused has been on remand for two years. He suffers from cancer and hernia. He has 7 children to look after yet both his parents are dead and is a first offender. In his allocutus, the convict prayed for a short custodial sentence to enable him return to school. He had just completed primary seven and was about to join senior one. None of the members of the family of the deceased was available to make a victim impact statement.
I have reviewed the proposed sentence of thirteen years’ imprisonment in light of the The Constitution (Sentencing Guidelines for Courts of Judicature) (Practice) Directions, 2013. I have also reviewed current sentencing practices for offences of this nature. In this regard, I have considered the case of Bukenya v Uganda C.A Crim. Appeal No. 51 of 2007, where in its judgment of 22nd December 2014, the Court of Appeal upheld a sentence of life imprisonment for a 36 year old man convicted of murder. He had used a knife and a spear to stab the deceased, who was his brother, to death after an earlier fight. In Sebuliba Siraji v Uganda C.A. Cr. Appeal No. 319 of 2009, in its decision of 18th December 2014, the court of appeal confirmed a sentence of life imprisonment. In that case, the victim was a businessman and the accused was his casual labourer. On the fateful day, the accused waited for the deceased with a panga hidden in a kavera (polythene bag) and when the deceased opened his vehicle, the appellant attacked him and cut him with a panga on his head, neck and hand. In Uganda v Businge Kugonza H.C. Cr. Sess. Case No. 162 of 2012 the accused was convicted of murder after a full trial and was on 11th September 2013 sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. The convict in that case had dug hole in the wall of the victim’s house and cut him to death with a panga while he slept in his bed. In Uganda v Ocitti Alex and another, H.C. Cr Sessions Case No. 0428 of 2014, an accused who plead guilty to an indictment of murder was on 7th November 2014 sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. The 43 year old accused hit the deceased with an axe at the back of his head multiple times. In Uganda v Mutebi Muhamed and another, H.C. Cr Sessions Case No. 038 of 2011, one of the accused who pleaded guilty to the offence of murder was on 17th January 2014 sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment while the other convicted after a full trial was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment. The two convicts had killed the deceased by stabbing repeatedly on vulnerable parts of the body such as the head, the chest and near the breast during a robbery. Lastly, the case of Tom Sazi Sande alias Hussein Saddam v Uganda C.A Cr Appeal No. 127 of 2009, where in its decision of 24th March 2014, the Court of Appeal upheld a sentence of 18 years’ imprisonment for an accused who pleaded guilty to an indictment of murder. He had been on remand for 2 years and 3 months.
Having considered the sentencing guidelines and the current sentencing practice in relation to offences of this nature, the aggravating and mitigating factors outlined above and the fact that the convict has already spent one year and eight months on remand (having been charged on 4th February 2015), I hereby accept the submitted plea agreement entered into by the accused, his counsel, and the State Attorney and in accordance thereto, sentence the accused to ten (10) years’ imprisonment to be served starting from today. Having been convicted and sentenced on his own plea of guilty, the convict is advised that he has a right of appeal against the legality and severity of this sentence, within a period of fourteen days.
Dated at Arua this 6th day of October, 2016. …………………………………..
Stephen Mubiru, Judge.