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Absence Of An Assessor During A Criminal Trial Is Not A Mere Irregularity, Says The Court Of Appeal

In The Case Of Okao Jimmy Alias Baby & 4 Orthers V Uganda Criminal Appeal No. 55,62 & 67 Of 2016 Court Of Appeal; 

The Justices of the Court of Appeal in their judgment delivered on the 2nd day of May 2019 stated that the absence of an assessor during a criminal trial is not a mere irregularity.

CORAM; HON. JUSTICE KENNETH KAKURU, EGONDA NTENDE & HELLEN OBURA

This was a case of murder. The Appellants were convicted for the offence of murder and aggravated robbery contrary to Section 188 ,189, 285 & 286 accordingly. The appellants appealed against the sentence of the High Court Judge Hon. Winfred Nabisinde on the grounds that it was illegal due to the absence of one of the assessors during part of the trial.

The Court of Appeal Justices unanimously upheld this ground and held that the absence of an assessor from the trial is not a mere irregularity and that a sentence basing on the opinion of such assessors should be quashed and a re-trial be conducted in the trial Court.

The Court further held that allowing the assessor to resume participation in the trial was a fundamental irregularity which occasioned a miscarriage of Justice because the assessors opinion was based on incomplete evidence and it could have influenced the decision of the Judge.