THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
IN THE HIGH COURT OF UGANDA AT MPIGI
CRIMINAL REVISION NO 01 OF 2018
LILLIAN BIRUNGI::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: APPELLANT
BEFORE: HON. JUSTICE EMMANUEL BAGUMA
This application is brought under section 50(1) and (5) of the Criminal Procedure Code Act Cap 116 seeking for the following orders;
- An order setting aside the order of the trial magistrate made on 6th April 2017.
- An order allowing the appellant as mother of the late Nakiwolo Barbra and relatives of the late Atim Norah and Resty Namawejje to obtain the compensatory awards as pronounced by the trial magistrate on 20th March 2017.
Briefly the background of the case was that Muhirwe Patrick was charged with the offence of causing death through reckless driving contrary to sections 108 (1) (a), 2 and 46 of the Traffic and Road Safety Act 1998 Cap 361. He was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of 100 currency points in a judgment delivered on the 20th March 2018 before Her Worship Ninsiima Marion, Magistrate Grade 1, Mpigi Magistrates Court. The fine was for each of the deceased victims of the fatal accident that is; Atim Joan, Resty Namawejje and Nakiwolo Barbara wherein 50% was awarded to the relatives of the deceased as compensation.
Upon payment of the said fine by Muhirwe Patrick on 6th April 2017, the trial Magistrate then made a further order that the relatives of the deceased victims were to only access their compensatory sum upon presenting Letters of Administration in respect of the deceased victims’ estates. The appellant stated that as a result of this order, the appellant herein and the relatives of the deceased victims have been prevented from accessing the said compensatory awards since the deceased persons had no estates to administer.
The appellant was represented by Mr. Deo Mukwaya for M/S Rwakafuzi & Co. Advocates while the respondent was represented by Ms. Betty Agola from the office of the DPP.
I have considered the lower court judgment and order of the trial Magistrate together with submissions from both counsel to make the following ruling;
I shall first refer to Section 50 of the CPC which gives this court power to revise matters. It states as follows;
“In the case of any proceedings in a magistrate’s court the record
of which has been called for or which has been reported for orders, or which otherwise comes to its knowledge, when it appears that in those proceedings an error material to the merits of any case or involving a miscarriage of justice has occurred, the High Court may—in the case of any other order, other than an order of acquittal, alter or reverse the order”
The first ground of the application was that the trial magistrate erroneously ordered the appellant and other complainants to produce Letters of Administration in respect of their deceased daughters, prior to accessing the compensatory awards.
Counsel for the appellant submitted that the appellant testified on oath to being a biological mother to the deceased victim, Nakiwolo Barbra and she is therefore a beneficiary of the compensation that the trial magistrate gave as per section 197 (1) of the Magistrates Courts Act cap 16 which provides for compensation for material loss or personal injury.
Counsel for the respondent stated that the order for compensation was granted according to the trial magistrate’s discretionary powers as per the stated section above.
I have noted that the trial magistrate exercised her discretionary powers as stated under section 197 of the MCA to grant the compensatory award to the relatives of the deceased victims, among which is the appellant. What is in contention is that the magistrate ordered that the beneficiaries present letters of Administration to manage the estate of the deceased in order to receive the compensation.
I find that there was no legal basis for the learned trial magistrate to order the petitioner and her fellow complainants to produce letters of administration before accessing the compensatory awards given to them since the said awards are not in law meant to be given to the deceased victims in person but to the complainants and persons who had suffered loss as a result of the offence.
The second ground was that the trial magistrate was functus officio at the time of making the order for production of the above letters of administration.
Counsel for the appellant submitted that the trial magistrate’s order of presenting the letters of administration was illegal since she was functus officio.
Counsel for the respondent agreed with counsel for the appellant’s submission and stated that by the time the second order was passed, the trial magistrate was functus officio.
I have looked at the proceedings of the trial court and observed that the trial magistrate first made an order for compensation to the relatives of the deceased on 20th March 2017 and later on the 6th of April 2017, made another order that the relatives of the deceased present letters of administration for the estate of the deceased in order to get the said compensation.
In Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th Edition, the term functus officio is defined as “…without further authority or legal competence because the duties and functions of the original have been fully accomplished.”
This means a final decision has already been made thus court cannot make further pronouncements on it.
As submitted by both counsel, I also find that the trial magistrate was functus officio on the basis that she had already made an order thus was bound by it.
In the premises, I allow this application and make the following orders;
- The order made by the trial magistrate regarding the relatives of the deceased victims to present letters of administration before accessing the compensation given on the 6th April 2017 is hereby set aside.
- The appellant as mother of the late Nakiwolo Barbra and relatives of the late Atim Norah and Resty Namawejje obtain the compensatory awards as pronounced by the trial magistrate on 20th March 2017 by presenting their identification to the trial court.