During a court hearing on Friday, the torture charge against Jolly Tumuhiirwe, the housemaid caught on video brutalising a toddler, was withdrawn and a fresh charge of causing bodily harm introduced.
Tumuhiirwe’s violent act against one-and-a-half-year-old Arnella Kamanzi shocked people who viewed the video after it went viral.
Her case was on Friday moved from City Hall Grade One Magistrate’s court to the higher Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s court. Siraje Lubwama and Derrick Kiyonga recorded the proceedings in chief magistrate Lillian Bucyana’s court, and below is an abridged version.
Court clerk: Case file No 826 of 2014 arising from KCCA file No 135: Uganda versus Jolly Tumuhiirwe.
Anguzu: Your Worship, I am Lino Anguzu for the state. MrLadislaus Rwakafuuzi represents the accused person. This case was transferred from City Hall court. According to analysis, we’re withdrawing the charge of torture and substituting it with causing bodily harm contrary to section 836 of the Penal Code Act.
Rwakafuuzi: Before the accused is asked to plead, it is better for prosecution to identify the particular part of harm as certified by a medical doctor.
Anguzu: We will give details during prosecution and if the accused pleads guilty, still particulars of harm will be explained. But as of now, it is still premature.
Court clerk: [reads out new charge]. It is alleged that you Jolly Tumuhiirwe, 22, Munyankore, housemaid at Kiwatule – Kizungu zone, on November 13, 2014, you illegally assaulted and caused bodily harm to Arnella Kamanzi, a one-and-half-year-old baby.
Bucyana: Have you heard the charge?
Tumuhiirwe: Yes, Your Worship.
Buchana: Have you understood it?
Tumuhiirwe: Yes, I plead guilty.
Anguzu: Details of the case are that Erick Kamanzi and Angella Mbabazi, parents to [Arnella] Kamanzi, in May 2014 employed the accused as a maid to take care of this child and would pay her a salary. After the maid started working, parents started seeing a strange change in their child and when they found wounds inside her mouth, nose and noticed the victim was limping, they asked the maid what had happened. She denied any knowledge and suggested that she [child] could have fallen down.
The father installed a digital camera after attaching it to the desktop computer and placed it in the sitting room. He left the camera running till the 13th day of November 2014. During that day, the accused seriously assaulted the victim. She slapped her, pulled her down on the floor, struck her at the back with a torch several times. She kicked her and stepped on her.
The next morning, Erick downloaded the video and watched it from his office. In the video, he saw the convict assaulting and slapping the baby twice, pulling the baby around on the ground, beating her several times with a torch, kicking her, slapping her and stepping on this helpless baby who was crying in pain.
The father was shocked and called journalists. When he asked Jolly, she denied assaulting the baby but after showing her the video, she admitted. She was immediately fired. The parents reported the case at Kira Road police station.
The victim was examined by a doctor and she was found with bruises on the face and in the back. She was also suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the physical abuse. The video was examined by the police forensic department and was found to be authentic.
The accused appeared before Grade I Magistrate at Mwanga court where she recorded a statement admitting assaulting the baby. A case of torture was preferred on her. The police report shows the details of the grievous harm meted out on the baby. She was suffering from injuries classified as harm by medical officers.
Bucyana: (to the accused) You are convicted on your plea of guilty.
Rwakafuuzi: The convict has been charged under Section 236 (reads it) and though she is liable to imprisonment of up to five years, this section does not talk about common assault. The proper section should have been 235 where a convict is liable up to a year in jail.
Anguzu: Though we don’t have any previous criminal record of the convict and she has constantly admitted her wrong doing from the day she was arrested, the circumstance of the case is very grave considering the age of the victim. Helpless babies should be taken care of by others.
The accused was specifically employed to take care of the baby and was paid a salary. The injuries inflicted on the baby will last for her entire life and she can even become lame. Prosecution prays for the fiveyear maximum jail sentence. The parents of the victim are in court. Sentencing guidelines allow them to say something if they so wish, in addition to what I have stated.
Rwakafuuzi: I have had occasion to talk to the client. She deeply regrets the incident and she asks court to be given another chance and to appologise to the parents of the baby. She realises that the incident was very brutal and that she will never do it again. She requests this court to give her a second chance by imprisoning her for not more than two years and she says she is not going to be rude to children wherever she will be.
On my own submission, I wanted court to consider section 235 when passing sentence because it is psychological torture which the Penal Code Act does not describe. That notwithstanding, the convict looks forward to being allowed to come back in society, get married, bear children, show society how good she can be to children if given another chance [laughter in court]. I hope the parents will not say no to this prayer.
Kamanzi: [Father of the girl] First of all, the accused was cruel to our baby. Her lawyer is suggesting that the case should to be classified as psychological torture. After the incident, we have realised that our baby can’t talk properly. We hope that whatever sentence is given to her will be the maximum. She does not deserve to be in society and I doubt if anybody can employ her as a maid. If she gets a husband, well I wish her the best.
The kind of torture prosecution has described in this court is just a small fraction of what she did to our baby. I wish court could find time to view this ten-hour video before passing a sentence.
Mbabazi: [Mother to toddler] I would like to know from the accused the reason why she did this to the poor girl who did not quarrel with her.
Tumuhiirwe: [speaking in Luganda] I still apologise to the nation, particularly those who viewed the video and the parents in particular. On my side, the mother of the victim made me get the anger to assault this baby after she constantly meted out cruel acts on me. After these cruel acts on me I asked her for Shs 5,000 to enable me go to my sister and she refused.
She would pick enkoni (stick) and hit me on the head and my back. One day when I was taking her shoes for repair, she attacked me from behind and beat me with enkoni. She used to beat me whenever she was going to work. I didn’t intend to kill the baby, I was also traumatized. I pray for a lenient sentence. [Talking to journalists outside court thereafter, the mother of the baby denied ever assaulting Tumuhiirwe]
Anguzu: We pray to tender in the 10-hour video as part of our submission in mitigation for court to see the aggravated acts.
Rwakafuuzi: Since the accused pleaded guilty, we don’t see the value of tendering the video or showing it to court. It is not important at this stage. Prosecution can only give me a copy for my personal viewing.
Bucyana: I need time to analyse the submissions. Sentence reserved for Monday, December 15.
Source : The Observer