The Justices of Court of Appeal; Hon. Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo, Hon. Justice Stephen Musota and Hon. Justice Percy Night Tuhaise in their judgment delivered on 4th September 2019 state that sentencing is a matter for discretion of the trial court in the case ABITI MOSES V UGANDA CA NO.236 OF 2015.
The appellant was indicted, tried and convicted of the offence of the offence murder c/s 188 and 189 of the Penal Code Act was sentenced to 23 years of imprisonment. The brief facts were that the appellant was seen pulling the victim Chadiru Monica out of the disco hall and later found dead behind the hall. The post mortem report revealed that the large and small intestines were pulled out from the anus and vagina. There was a plea bargain in which a sentence of 22years was agreed upon.
On appeal, counsel for the appellant argued that the plea bargain was illegal considering that the interpreter did not sign the document as required. While the respondent contended that the plea bargain was legal since it was signed by the appellant himself twice.
Court noted that it is trite law that sentencing is a matter for discretion of the trial court. Thus an appellate court can only interfere with the exercise of discretion if the sentence imposed is manifestly excessive or is an occasion of miscarriage of justice.
In cases of plea of guilty, no appeal lies therefrom except where the legality of the plea or sentence is an issue. Plea bargain serves to benefit both the accused person and the prosecution. It enables the accused person to face lesser charges than he or she would have had there been no bargain. The other benefit is that the resultant sentence would be less than what would have been imposed in a full trial.
Where a plea bargain outcome results from some misunderstanding by the accused person of the consequences of the bargain, then the bargain is defective and can be revoked. In this case, there was need for an interpreter but there was neither name nor signature of such person. The court should ensure that the process is not abused. Therefor the absence of attestation by translator is fatal to the whole plea bargain process and the resultant conviction and sentence is illegal. Consequently, the conviction was quashed, sentence set aside and a new trial ordered.