The Courts shall continue to be guided by the Constitution and the law on matters relating to bail, the Chief Justice, Bart M. Katureebe, has said.
The Chief Justice was responding to remarks made by President Yoweri Museveni during the National Budget Day that “bail for a suspected killer is not acceptable.” The president was making reference to a series of murders that have shaken the Country. The latest took the life of Arua municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga who was gunned down together with his brother Saidi Kongo Butele near his home in Kawanda, Wakiso district.
“There are two things I am not going to accept any more; police bond and bail. I don’t want to hear about them again. Somebody suspected of killing our people, you give them police bond? This is not acceptable,” Museveni said.
But Justice Katureebe said that the Judiciary’s position on bail can only change when the law is amended. “It is simple: the issue of bail is governed by the Constitution and the law. Until the law is amended, bail will be granted or denied in accordance with the Constitution and the law,” said the Chief Justice.
He adds that the courts presume all accused persons innocent until they are proven guilty in a trial – the very reason they have a right to apply for bail and the courts have the discretion to grant or deny the applications.
He explained that the law provides adequate safeguards and the courts take into account a number of considerations, including the matters of public safety, before they grant bail. The right to apply for bail is provided for in 1995 Constitution, the Magistrates Court Act and Trial on Indictment Act.
The Constitution provides for the right of an accused person to apply to the court to be released on bail subject to the legal requirements and conditions, which must be fulfilled before court grants bail. It also gives the accused person before a Magistrates Court the right to be released on bail, if the person has been on remand for 60 days before trial.
Similarly, the constitution gives a person charged with a capital offence the right to be released on bail if he or she has spent 180 days on remand before their committal to the High Court for trial.
Ugandan laws also give powers to police officers in charge of police stations to release a person taken into custody without a warrant if it is not practicable to charge them within 48 hours of arrest.