The High Court in Kampala today ordered for the release of Ms Rosemary Namubiru, the nurse who was mid this year convicted and sentenced to three-years in prison for pricking a baby with an HIV infected device (cannula) that she had first used on herself.
This followed her successful appeal challenging her conviction and three-year jail sentence in May this year for doing a negligent act that was likely to spread an infectious disease (HIV) to the baby.
In her appeal she insisted that her conviction and sentence were too harsh for her and that the trial magistrate Olive Kazarwe failed to properly evaluate the evidence on record and reached a wrong conclusion.
While making his ruling, presiding judge Albert Rugadya Atwooki said that the three-jail term handed to her by the trial court was excessive before ordering for her immediate release from Luzira prison where she has been since she was charged in court in January this year.
The judge added that the time that she had so far spent in prison is sufficient enough to serve as her punishment.
“This country continues to grapple with various life threatening diseases .Court cannot shut its eyes from the reality of the situation in which we live. The confidence and trust put in health care professionals by the people should not be abused or misplaced and it should also not be taken for granted,” ruled justice Rugadya
The judge added: “ I must point out that this case was about recklessness, negligent behaviour on the part of the health care providers, which exposes patients to life threatening disease. This could for example have been the dreaded Ebola, Murburg or even measles. It was not, contrary to what sections of the society wanted us to believe, a case against those living with HIV”
“I was satisfied nonetheless that the circumstances of this case require a sentence which is lighter than that meted out by the trial court. The ground of appeal on sentence therefore succeeds to that extent. The appellant is thereby sentenced to such a period of imprisonment as shall enable her go home immediately, I so order .”
But her being freed from prison does not mean that she is innocent. Court maintained that she is guilty of the offense she was charged with but ordered for her release from prison on grounds that the three-year jail term meted against her was on a higher side.
Shortly after her release from prison, Ms Namubiru, 64, couldn’t believe her ears. She hugged her relatives who were present in court before asking the parents of Mathew Mushabe (the baby) to forgive her maintaining that the incident was accidental.
Prosecution had alleged that Ms Namubiru on January 7 this year at Victoria Medical Centre Lumumba Avenue in Kampala, unlawfully and negligently injected Mushabe with a cannula contaminated with her HIV positive blood when she knew or had reasons to believe that this could likely spread the infection of HIV, a disease dangerous to life. She denied the charges
The ugly incident that shocked the country happened when Ms Ruth Ankunda Mushabe, the mother of Mushabe had taken him to the health facility to receive treatment of a sore throat.
The good news is that Mushabe was not infected with the deadly HIV virus as he was immediately put on post exposure treatment.