Jolly Tumuhiirwe, the housemaid accused of torturing a toddler, will appear before Buganda Road court chief magistrate today (Friday) to be charged afresh.
The video of Tumuhiirwe beating up baby Arnella Kamanzi whipped up public emotion and prompted calls for her to be charged with either murder or torture. But the case took a new twist on Tuesday, when City Hall Magistrate Moses Nabenda referred it to Buganda Road court, saying Tumuhiirwe would be charged next Tuesday.
But in an interview yesterday, Mike Chibita, the director of public prosecutions (DPP) confirmed that Tumuhiirwe would be charged with a lesser offence today. Chibita could not name the charge, but lawyers expect it to be assault.
“By the time she went to the City Hall court, we were still studying the file and thinking about what exact charge she was supposed to face. We had not finalized our investigation,” Chibita said. “The torture charge cannot stand we shall charge her afresh.”
Chibita distanced himself from the torture charge, saying the police pushed it. On Monday, Tumuhiirwe pleaded guilty to the charge of torture and asked for forgiveness from court, the baby’s parents and all people affected by her actions.
But the maid’s lawyer, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, argued that the City Hall court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case since it has no chief magistrate who by law is mandated to hear the case of torture. Chibita, too, could not understand why Nabenda allowed Tumuhiirwe to enter plea.
“I am still wondering maybe he [Nabenda] was under pressure but we all know that even if a person has committed murder and is charged in the magistrate’s court, heshe cannot plead guilty in that lower court since the powers of trying such a case reside with the High court,” Chibita said
Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo accused the state of wanting Tumuhiirwe convicted even before getting the brief facts of the case.
“I am one of the people who drafted the anti-torture law but it seems the DPP even never knew what exactly the maid had done and how she did it. They just rushed to court because of public opinion,” he said.
Isaac Walukagga, a criminal lawyer, said the case should have been heard in the Nakawa magistrate’s court since the alleged crime was committed in Najjeera.
“This case is riddled with procedural errors which are bound to be challenged in the High court. The law is very clear on territorial jurisdiction of magistrate’s courts. Everybody must be charged where he she has committed the crime from,” Walukagga said.
When the case first came up on November 13, 2014, police said Tumuhiirwe had first been charged at Nakawa magistrate’s court. Chibita, however, said: “I don’t know about the case in Nakawa because we have never been there.”
Source : The Observer