A criminal charge is a formal written accusation of an offence drawn up either by a police officer or magistrate, signed by a magistrate to be used in a magistrate’s court as a basis for a trial or proceeding.
Article 28(3) (b) of the Constitution of Uganda, 1995 provides that every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be informed immediately in a language that the person understands, of the nature of the offence. This article is usually read together with article 28 (12) with states that, except for contempt of court, no person shall be convicted of a criminal offence unless the offence is defined and the penalty for it prescribed by law.
Sections 85 to 88 of the Magistrates Court Act, Cap 16 provide for; the form, content of a charge, joinder of persons and duplicity of charges. Section 42(2) and 132 provide for effects of a defective charge and alteration or amendment of a charge.
A charge describes the offences shortly in an ordinary language, avoiding the use of technical terms and it shall contain a reference to a section of the law creating the offence. It shall also state the particulars of the offence allegedly committed, description of the accused persons including particulars of the place, date and time when the offence was committed.
Note: As a general rule, it is not proper for court to try several persons together on charges of committing individual offences that have nothing to do with each other.
No information contained in this alert should be construed as legal advice from Centre for Public Interest Law or the individual authors, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.
For additional information in relation to this alert, please contact the following:
Gad A. Kisaalu
Legal Officer, Litigation & Advocacy.