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DPP asks court to uphold Ssebuwufu’s jail term

Businessman Muhammed Ssebuwufu leaving court. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Directorate of Public Prosecutions-DPP has asked the Court of Appeal to uphold the 40-year jail term that was handed to the proprietor of Pine Car bond Muhammad Ssebuwufu for the murder of businesswoman Betty Donah Katusabe.

Ssebuwufu was in 2019 convicted by the Retired High Court Judge Flavia Anglin Ssenoga together with seven others with whom he is challenging the sentence and conviction on three charges namely; kidnap, murder and robbery.

They are; Godfrey Kayiza alias Godi, Phillip Mirembe, Paul Tasingika, Yoweri Kitayimbwa, Damasseni Ssentongo, Shaban Odutu alias Golola and Stephen Lwanga who was sentenced to 7 years in jail for being an accessory after the offence.

The group was found guilty of kidnapping Katusabe from her home in Bwebajja along Entebbe road on October 21, 2015, and drove her to Pine car bond along Lumumba Avenue in Kampala where they used sharp objects to torture her to death.

Katusabe had reportedly failed to pay a balance of 9 Million Shillings for a vehicle she bought from Ssebuwufu’s bond valued at Shillings 17 million. The convicts also reportedly robbed Katusabe of her simcards and the mobile phone worth 300,000 Shillings.

Justice Ssenoga sentenced them to serve punishments ranging from 20 to 40 years that were to run concurrently.  She also directed that they compensate Katusabe’s family with 100 million shillings for loss of life.

However, all the convicts appealed against the sentence except Stephen Lwanga.

They argued that the judge erred in law and fact when she convicted them on three charges without proof of all the essential ingredients of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt.

“That the learned trial Judge erred in law and fact when she imposed a manifestly harsh, illegal and excessive sentence given the circumstances of the case” reads the appeal in part.

It adds that Justice Ssenoga also erred when she passed an excessive compensation order of 100 million shillings.

As such, through their lawyers led by Evans Ochieng, they asked the Court of Appeal to quash their conviction and set aside the sentences against them.

However, in a response to the case, the DPP through Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Hope Carolyn Nabaasa in her submissions wants the court to maintain the conviction and subsequent sentences.

Nabaasa states that the death of Katusabe was neither accidental, excusable nor authorized by law and she was picked from her home ready to do her house chores and not in a condition nearing death.

According to the prosecution, the ingredient of murder aforethought was also properly proved since there was evidence to show that the perpetrators, of what they describe as a heinous act and the manner they executed it was not meant for a joke or simple punishment.

“The evidence of prosecution witness four proved that multiple injuries and serious internal bleeding were the cause of her death. The prosecution witness stated that he found the deceased weak, barefooted with torn clothes, had bruises and was surrounded by the strong men/appellants” adds the DPP.

The prosecution further maintains that the appellants participated in the murder and there was evidence of phone calls data.

“Besides evidence of the eyewitnesses who placed all the appellants in the entire episode right from Bwebaja to the scene of crime and gave a credible account of the appellants’ participation, the prosecution also adduced evidence of phone calls data. My Lords, the eyewitnesses are corroborated by the call data that located the appellants at the scene of kidnap and torture/robbery during the period in issue”, reads the response.

On the issue of compensation, the DPP argues that there are no price tags for life and the law is very clear that a person not sentenced to death and is guilty of robbery, that person has to compensate the family of the deceased.

The arguments for all the parties which were documented last month have been adopted before Court of Appeal Justices Fredrick Egonda Ntende, Christopher Izama Madrama and Catherine Bamugemereire.

The Justices have two weeks to conclude 30 appeals and have promised to deliver their judgment on notice shortly after the appellants’ lawyers led by Henry Kunya make a written rejoinder.

The convicts had jointly been charged with the former Central Police Commander, Aaron Baguma whose charges were later dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions-DPP.

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URN

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