Lt Col John Kaye is now a free man after the Court of Appeal quashed the 7-year jail term earlier handed to him by the military court for the murder of a 28-year-old man.
The three Justices led by the Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo on Thursday held that military courts are quasi-judicial bodies that must observe certain principles of the law but have limited jurisdictions similar to Police Disciplinary Courts.
They further held that only an independent court has jurisdictions under Article 28 of the Constitution to try any criminal offences which a military court is limited to.
Other justices included; Elizabeth Musoke and Cheborion Barishaki.
“Court made a finding that murder was not a service offence, so it could not be tried by the General Court Martial. Accordingly, the proceedings in the appeal at the Court Martial Appeal Court was declared unconstitutional,” the justices held.
The justices explained that as it was illegal for the military courts to try a murder case having been exercised outside their area of jurisdictions, and that it would be a waste of Court’s time to proceed to examine the other grounds of Appeal since the appeal stems from the issue of jurisdiction.
“This Appeal is therefore allowed and the conviction of the Appellant by the Court Martial Appeals Court is hereby set aside and the sentence quashed. The appellant (Lt Col Kaye) must be set free,” Court ruled.
Lt Col Kaye was on February 16, 2015 sentenced 10 years imprisonment by the General Court Martial chaired by the late Brig Gen Levi Karuhanga for murdering a 28-year-old man Steven Kabuye at his home in Nalumunye, Wakiso District in 2013.
However being dissatisfied with his conviction and sentence, he appealed to the Court Martial Appellant Court chaired by Mr Elly Turyamubona which set aside his conviction of murder and substituted it with manslaughter thus sentencing him to seven years on grounds that the General Court Martial had imposed a harsh sentence on him.
Lt Col Kaye was also dissatisfied with the Court Martial Appellant Court’s decision, he appealed the same in the Court of Appeal on grounds that he was convicted of the offence of manslaughter without even according him a fair hearing.
He also noted that the Court Martial Appellant Court had no jurisdictions to sustain a conviction of manslaughter and proceeding to evaluate the evidence on assumption that he admitted killing the deceased whereas not.