Jail term for 3 men who gang-raped nursing student reduced

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Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The Court of Appeal of Uganda has reduced 50-year prison term of three men who gang-raped a nursing student to 30 years.

The Court of Appeal comprising Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, Christopher Gashirabake, and Oscar Kihika found that the 50-year jail term that was handed to Ben Omollo, Patrick Ecudo, and Gabriel Elomunait was excessive.

The three were on February 4th, 2011 found guilty by the then High Court Judge Margaret Oumo Oguli and jailed for 50 years for raping a nursing student at Jinja School of Nursing and Midwifery in 2010.

The Court heard that on the night of March 14th, 2010, the student A.S. who also helped was at a traditional marriage ceremony at Kaler village, Mukura sub-county in Ngora District.  She left her friends to ease herself and as she was in the process of answering nature’s call, Omollo and Elomunait appeared and stood over her.

Records show that the nurse asked them to leave but they declined and watched her as she answered nature’s call.

“She attempted to negotiate herself out of their trap, by offering them money but they declined the offer for money and insisted they had to have sex with her, even if it was against her will. She recalls that the appellants acted in concert with each other. One held her back while two pulled down her pants. They raped her in turns with one saying he was eager to have sex with a girl from town,” reads the documents.

The documents add that “they also momentarily prevented her from returning to join the other guests at the ceremony and held her hostage, forcing her to join their ‘malwa’ or ’ajon’ drinking joint. The victim was able to escape after over twenty minutes. She found her way back to the ceremony where she narrated the ordeal to her friends.”

The court heard that afterward, the victim reported the matter to the Police, and the accused persons were arrested, and charged. They denied the charges and were tried, and found guilty before being sentenced to 50 years in jail.

Dissatisfied with the conviction and sentence, they appealed in the Court of Appeal on grounds that the learned trial Judge erred in law and fast when she relied on the improperly conducted identification parade leading to a miscarriage of justice.

They also faulted Lady Justice Oumo Oguli for having erred in law and fact when she relied on hearsay evidence and went ahead to sentence them to 50 years which they said was excessive and irregular.

In their Judgement, the Court of Appeal Justices ruled that the convicts were properly identified at the police parade as the key suspects who gang-raped the nursing student.

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“Be that as it may, there is still overwhelming evidence to prove that the appellants raped PW1/A.S. The testimony of PW1, the medical report, the testimony of PW2 that PW1 informed her immediately after the rape about who and where the rape was done and her being visibly distressed is still sufficient to prove that the appellants raped PW1,” reads the judgment.

The Justices also ruled that the High Court Judge did not take into consideration the fact that the appellants were first-time offenders who were young and had a chance to reform and return to society.

“A3. (Gabriel) is already condemned to living with HIV given the conditions in prison. All three are first offenders. The trial Judge remarked that the appellants had condemned the victim A.S and themselves to death when they had exposed her and other persons to HIV/Aids. The prosecution did not, however, adduce evidence to show that A.S had indeed contracted HIV/Aids’. We find the punishment meted out on the appellants excessive and harsh,” reads the case.