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Does Aggravated Robery Warrant A Death Sentence?

A Decision By The High Court Of Uganda Sitting At Gulu Criminal Sessions Case No. 290 Of 2018, Uganda V Tabu & 4 Ors Before Justice Stephen Mubiru

Judgment on 8th August, 2018

When this case came up on 8th August, 2018 for plea, one juvenile offender and two accused were indicted with the offence of Aggravated Robbery c/s 285 and 286 (2) of The Penal Code Act. The other accused by the time of taking plea had escaped from the remand home and the charge sheet was amended.

Brief facts

It was alleged that the three accused and one juvenile on 11th September, 2017 at Awere sub-county in Gulu District, stole several items totaling 981,000/= from Adokorach Sharon, and immediately before, during or after the said robbery, used deadly weapons, to wit; a panga and a knife. On the night of the robbery, the accused broke into the kiosk of Sharon and started collecting the items which prompted her to make an alarm that attracted Mama Becky who called the watchman at a nearby clinic. The accused fled but Tabu was arrested the following morning while trying to peep into the kiosk. Sharon identified him since he was still dressed in the clothes he had on the night of the robbery. At the police, he revealed the identity of his accomplices and stated that they had refused to give him his share and he had come back to get something for himself. They were examined and found to be adults except for A3 who was a minor.

Submitting in aggravation of the sentence, the learned state attorney stated that the accused threatened to kill the victim, they used deadly weapons and none of the items has been recovered. He prayed for a sentence of 15 years for the adults and 2 and 8 months for the juvenile. The defence prayed for a lenient sentence stating that the accused are remorseful, capable of reforming and rehabilitation.

Held

According to section 286 (2) of the Penal Code Act, the maximum penalty for the offence of Aggravated Robbery is death. But this sentence is reserved for the most serious cases such as where it is lethal.

Examples of such circumstances relevant to this case are provided by Regulation 20 of The Constitution (Sentencing Guidelines for Courts of Judicature) (Practice) Directions, 2013 to include; the use and nature of weapon used, the degree of meticulous pre-meditation or planning, and the gratuitous degradation of the victim like multiple incidents of harm or injury or sexual abuse. Considering the decision in Kusemererwa and Another v. Uganda, C.A. Criminal Appeal No. 83 of 2010, where a sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment was upheld in respect of convicts who had used guns during the commission of the offence, but had not hurt the victims. In Naturinda Tamson v. Uganda C.A. Criminal Appeal No. 13 of 2011,a sentence of 16 years imprisonment was imposed on a 29 year old convict for a similar offence.

With the knowledge that the maximum sentence for the offence is death, it has been discounted on the understanding that the case though serious is not in the extreme manner of the cases. Considering the aggravating factors which warrant a custodial sentence, the starting point was made 10 years. Considering that they plead guilty, as a general principle (rather than a matter of law though) an offender who pleads guilty may expect some credit in the form of a discount in sentence. Considering the time the accused have spent on remand, the adult accused were sentenced to a term of 3 years and two months.

As for the juvenile, he can’t be sentenced to more than 3 years as per section104 (A) (1) of The Children Act, for that matter, considering the time he’s spent on remand, and the fact that he pleaded guilty, the gravity of the offence warrants an order of detention and thus consider two (2) years and six (6) months’ period of detention to be appropriate for this offender. In accordance with section 94 (1) (f) of The Children Act, an order of probation of ten (10) months was given after setting off the time on remand and the fact that the accused was remorseful and capable of reforming.