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‘Magistrate’s courts can grant bail to any offences triable in its court,’ Supreme Court rules

A quorum of judges in the Supreme Court of Uganda. The Supreme Court has overruled that all offences triable by magistrate’s courts can also be bailable in the same court (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – The Supreme Court has overruled that all offences triable by magistrate’s courts can also be bailable in the same court

The five justices were responding to an appeal filed by a non-Governmental Organization (NGO) known as the Foundation for Human Rights Initiatives being with sections of the UPDF Act, Police Act and Magistrates Courts Act, which they felt contravened the constitutional provisions on liberty such as bail.

The organisation had asked Court to nullify section 14(2) of Trial on Indictment Act, section 75 of the Magistrates Courts Act and all the impugned provisions in the petition which are inconsistent with Articles 20, 23(1), 23 (6), 28(1) and 28(3) of the Constitution.

They had urged that the provision, contravenes Article 23 (6) of the Constitution (supra) in that it infringes and limits the accused’s right to apply for bail.

However in a majority Judgement read by Justice Esther Kisakye; their Lordships including the Chief Justice Bert Katureebe said that if an offence is triable by the Magistrate Court, it should be in position to grant bail.

The justices explained that it does not make sense for the magistrate’s court to handle the greater task of the case like trial, and not have power to handle the lesser task of granting bail.

The Justices have also concurred with the Constitutional court that ruled that the UPDF Act contravenes the Constitution in as far as detention of suspects for lengthy periods on remand is concerned.

“These acts violate the suspects’ right to fair and speedy trial as well as the presumption of innocence, a person should be detained for only a period of 48hrs as prescribed in the Law” they ruled.

However, on the issue of exceptional circumstances like, grave illness and advanced age; that are supposed to be proved by suspects charged with capital offences, before grant of bail; the 5 justices have ruled that this requirement does not take away his or her right to bail nor does it violate the Constitution but exceptional circumstances must be proved before release on bail.

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