The landmark pronouncement is contained in the ruling of Mukono High Court Judge, David Batema.
MUKONO - Court has said it is illegal to arrest lawyers while executing their duty.
The landmark pronouncement is contained in the ruling of Mukono High Court Judge, David Batema, dated September 29, 2020.
The pronouncement was prompted by the arrest and subsequent remand of a lawyer Shaban Nkuutu, to Kauga Prison in the Mukono district.
It had been purported that Nkuutu had concealed a land title. Documents at the court showed that in his line of duty as a lawyer last year, Nkuutu was entrusted by two parties in a land investment transaction, to keep the certificate of title.
Subsequently, a third party claimed equitable interest in the land. Towards the end of last year, the new claim prompted the Regional Criminal Investigation Department Mukono, to summon Nkuutu to help in investigations.
Nkuutu was produced at the Magistrate's Court and charged with concealing a land title deed, an offence as stipulated in Section 278 of the Penal Code Act.
However, the lawyer petitioned the Chief Magistrate, who referred the matter to Justice Batema for guidance.
"I am satisfied that the law protects lawyers from prosecution in such circumstances. Under Regulation 7 of the Advocates(Professional Conduct)Regulations, no advocate can be compelled to disclose or divulge any information that has come to his or her possession in the course of his/her duties," the judge pronounced.
"This is privileged information. Police officers wanted to get to the lawyer unlawfully. I hereby dismiss the charge against the lawyer for being bad in law and being barred under the Advocates(Professional Conduct) Regulations."
Batema emphasized that Nkuutu can only be held in lawful custody in the event that there are other pending lawful charges.
The Judge noted that the state attorney had okayed a non-existent charge, saying such a scenario should never have been allowed to occur.
He advised that it is crucial for the courts to be vigilant and reject charges that don't fall in the ambit of the legal provisions.