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Man convicted of sodomy acquitted due to loss of court records

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KAMPALA – A 29-year-old man who was sentenced to 49 years in prison for sodomizing a child was acquitted by the Court of Appeal for lack of court documents.

The panel, comprising Justices Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi and Monica Mugenyi, freed Gerald Ngobi, saying vital records including judgment, allocutus, mitigation and sentence were irretrievably lost.

“This appeal succeeds in its entirety and the ruling of the court of first instance is annulled. The appellant is hereby released unless he is detained on other charges,” Kiryabwire ruled on May 21, 2024.

The magistrates refused to order a new trial in the interests of justice and ordered that this file be brought to the attention of the chief judge, Flavian Zeija, in order to establish ways to stop the loss of court records and fraudulent leaks.

The prosecution alleges that Ngobi, on July 23, 2012, in Balawoli sub-county of Kawala parish of Buguwa area in Kamuli district, sodomized a 9-year-old boy (name withheld).

“It is also public knowledge that the trial judge in this matter has left the High Court. This makes it difficult to reconstitute the judicial file with the help of the trial judge. On the other hand, a complete retrial of this matter will create significant injustice for both the victim and the appellant,” Kiryabwire noted.

The justices observed that it is the constitutional duty of the court under Article 126(2)(b) to ensure that justice is not delayed.

The court heard that Ngobi has been detained for about 11 years and his appeal was heard in March 2023, nine years after his conviction.

“We take into account the sentence that Ngobi has already served and the frustration over the delay in the hearing of his case. It is in the interest of justice that the conviction and sentence against the appellant be set aside and that the appellant be released unless he is detained on other legal grounds,” Kiryabwire ordered.

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