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Law Society hails court ruling on illegal arrest of lawyers

By Andante Okanya

Added 20th October 2020 01:22 PM

The pronouncement was prompted by the arrest and subsequent remand of a lawyer Shaban Nkuutu

Law Society hails court ruling on illegal arrest of lawyers

Uganda Law Society president Pheona Nabasa-Wall.

The pronouncement was prompted by the arrest and subsequent remand of a lawyer Shaban Nkuutu

Uganda Law Society (ULS) has hailed the High Court pronouncement that 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.

On Tuesday, ULS president Pheona Nabasa-Wall, told New Vision that the ruling is a safety net to cushion lawyers as and when they execute their duty.

Batema emphasised that Regulation 7 of the Advocates (Professional Conduct) Regulations, says 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 pronouncement was prompted by the arrest and subsequent remand of a lawyer Shaban Nkuutu, to Kauga Prison in Mukono district. He purportedly concealed a land title.

Nabasa-Wall said the court clearly buttressed the right to protections enjoyed by a lawyer when conducting official business.

"We applaud Justice Batema for exercising what we call judicial activism. He has set a very good precedent for us (ULS members). I hope the higher courts can also pronounce themselves on such a matter," said Nabasa-Wall.

"There is no way we are going to be protected as advocates in doing our work if somebody can just wake up, raid our offices and claim we submit documents, without rightful authority."

Background

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 in 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. 

Consequently, Batema opined that the case was a glaring abuse of court process. 

"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 opined.

Batema emphasised 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 fictitious charges that are not backed by legal provision.

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