The Court of Appeal in Kampala has reduced the 40-year jail sentence handed to businessman, Muhammad Ssebuwufu over the pine car bond murder.
Ssebuwufu was in 2019 together with six others sentenced to 40-year jail after being convicted of the murder of Betty Donah Katushabe, a businesswoman.
The group later appealed against the sentence.
On Monday, a panel of three Justices of the Court of Appeal including Stephen Egonda-Ntende, Catherine Bamugemereire and Madrama Izama Christopher faulted the trial judge for sentencing the convicts to 40 years imprisonment, a punishment they said was harsh, illegal and excessive given the circumstances of the case.
“We find that the sentence of 40 years imprisonment was harsh and excessive and allow the appeal against the sentence. We find that in the circumstances, a sentence of 19 years imprisonment would be appropriate for each of the appellants,” the court ruled.
Considering the time, the seven had spent on remand, the justices of the Court of Appeal reduced Ssebuwufu’s sentence to 18 years starting from the date of conviction by the High Court on July, 24, 2019 whereas three of his co-accused’s sentences were reduced to 16 years.
The three justices also acquitted the group of the charges of aggravated robbery and consequently quashed the order for them to compensate Katushabe’s family.
The court said that Ssebuwufu, Godfrey Kayiza, Philip Mirambe, , Paul Tasingika, and Shaban Odutu were wrongly convicted of aggravated robbery yet thee was no evidence to prove the same.
“There was no evidence to show that a gun or any other deadly weapon was used upon the deceased and there was circumstantial evidence and not direct evidence of the presence or the use of a deadly weapon,” the judges said.
The judges described it as hearsay information that Katushabe’s vehicle which was the subject of the said robbery had been abandoned and later towed to Kyengera police station.
According to the court, the fact that Katushabe’s mobile phone could not be accounted for didn’t mean it had been robbed .
The court however maintained the shs100 million that the convicts are supposed to pay to the family of the deceased saying it is meant to compensate for the loss of life and dependency.
“The deceased had a husband and a family and in absence of a misdirection on matters of principle, the award was for the loss of life and any dependency to her dependants,” the court ruled.
In the same manner, the judges quashed the convictions and subsequent convictions of Paul Tasingika, Yoweri Kitayimbwa and Damasseni Ssentongo whom they said were never mentioned by any of the 26 witnesses presented by the prosecution.
They were consequently released.