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Court of Appeal Upholds Conviction of Nigerian National on Kidnap – UG Standard

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KAMPALA -The Court of Appeal on 26th March 2024 upheld Nigerian national Ugochukwu Joachim Onyeako’s convictions of Kidnap with Intent to Obtain a Ransom and Kidnap with Intent to Confine a Person for which he was sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment, by the International Crimes Division of the High Court.

In November 2021, the appellant Ugochukwu was convicted of one count of Kidnap with Intent to Obtain a Ransom and one count of Kidnap with Intent to Confine. It was alleged that between July and August 2013, the appellant lured an American Engineer and an Australian businessman into Uganda, confined them in a house in Seguku, and demanded significant amounts for ransom. The Australian businessman was released after the remission of 10,000 Euros through Western Union from his family and friends, and was dropped at Entebbe Airport where he was found by officers of the Uganda Police. The Australian national successfully led the Uganda Police to the house in Seguku. The Uganda Police arrested the accused and rescued the American.

The accused was accordingly charged with the aforementioned offences under the Penal Code Act. The Appellant was found guilty of the offenses, charged, convicted and sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment. Being dissatisfied with this decision of the trial court, Ugochukwu, filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

Upon evaluation of the evidence and the judgment of the trial court, the Court of Appeal decided that the trial Judge’s decision to proceed with one assessor in the absence of the second assessor was not wrong. Secondly, that the trial Judge could preside over the matter as she was not involved in any plea bargain involving the appellant. The Court observed that mere mention of interest in a plea bargain by an accused person in court does not mean a judge has participated in a plea bargain. Thirdly, that the appellant was placed at the scene of crime, and the trial Judge’s decision was based on testimonies from the victims and the appellant’s co-accused.

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However, the Court noted that the trial Judge did not consider the period the appellant spent on remand while sentencing the convict, and over sentenced him in respect of the second count, hence deemed the sentence of 17 years’ imprisonment illegal. Subsequently, the Court proceeded to re-sentence the appellant on both counts.

On count one, the appellant was sentenced to 3O years’ imprisonment and the 8 years that the appellant spent on remand were deducted. On count two, the appellant was sentenced to the maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and the 8 years that he spent on remand were deducted. The sentences are to run consecutively, with effect from 16th November 2021, the date of conviction.

The case was decided by Justice Richard Buteera-Deputy Chief Justice, Justice Christopher Gashirabake – Justice of Appeal, and Justice Oscar John Kihika-Justice of Appeal.

Mr. Richard Birivumbuka, Chief State Attorney in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions appeared for the respondent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






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