Recording police statements in Uganda: circumstances for excusal and guidelines

Recording police statements in Uganda: circumstances for excusal and guidelines
Guidelines for recording a statement in Uganda. Courtesy Photo by Pexels.

A recent recommendation by team of specialists from Mulago Hospital that Molly Katanga, the wife to the deceased businessman, Henry Katanga, be allowed to record a police statement in connection to the alleged murder of her husband while in hospital, has sent tags wagging.

The team, led by Dr. Joel Kiryabwire, a seasoned neurosurgeon, based on the numerous severe injuries Mrs. Katanga had suffered to conclude that she is still unfit to appear physically at a police station to record a statement.

This, and similar events, raises interesting questions about the guidelines for recording police statements, and circumstances under which individuals may be excused from fulfilling this duty.

While the process of recording police statements is a crucial aspect of the criminal justice system in Uganda, there are circumstances under which a suspect or accused person may be excused from providing a statement. In this article, we will explore these circumstances and also outline the guidelines for recording statements in Uganda.

Circumstances for Excusal

Medical Conditions: If a suspect or accused person is suffering from a serious medical condition that renders them physically or mentally incapable of providing a statement, they may be excused. In such cases, medical professionals may need to assess and certify the individual's condition.

Legal Representation: Individuals have the right to legal representation during the recording of a police statement. If a suspect or accused person requests the presence of their lawyer and their lawyer is unavailable at that time, the process may be postponed until legal representation can be arranged.

Language Barriers: If the suspect or accused person does not understand the language in which the statement is being recorded, efforts should be made to provide interpretation services or translate the statement into a language they understand. Failure to do so may be a ground for excusal.

Intoxication or Impairment: If a suspect or accused person is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any other substance that impairs their ability to provide a coherent statement, the recording may be postponed until they are in a fit state.

Guidelines for Recording Statements 

  1. Right to Silence: Individuals have the right to remain silent and cannot be compelled to provide self-incriminating statements.
  2. Informing the Purpose: Before recording a statement, the police must inform the suspect or accused person of the purpose of the statement, their rights, and the potential consequences of providing false information.
  3. Neutral Setting: Statements should be recorded in a neutral and non-coercive setting to ensure that the individual feels comfortable and not under duress.
  4. Documentation of Waivers: If a suspect chooses to waive their right to legal representation or decides to provide a statement against legal advice, these decisions should be documented clearly, and the individual should sign a waiver.
  5. Fair Treatment: All individuals should be treated with dignity and respect during the statement-recording process. Coercion, intimidation, or any form of mistreatment is strictly prohibited.
  6. Reviewing and Signing: Once the statement is recorded, the individual should be given an opportunity to review and make corrections if necessary. They should then sign the statement to confirm its accuracy.



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