Under Ugandan law, this is a restriction to liberty and range of movement of a person who is suspected of having committed a crime/an offence or is about to commit a criminal offence under the laws of Uganda.
It refers to the time a person arrested is confined in the police station for processing (between arresting a person and bringing that person before a court).
On what grounds and when can someone be placed in custody?
Under Ugandan law the arrest of a person leads to her/his police custody, thus the grounds to place a person in custody are the same as judicial arrest. The purpose of the custody is to conduct an inquiry and a police interrogation.
A magistrate – before whom a person arrested is sent – may detain that person in custody:
- when she/he has reason to believe that person is likely to commit a breach of the peace or disturb the public tranquillity and that such breach of the peace or disturbance cannot be prevented otherwise than by detaining that person in custody;
- When an offence is committed in her/his presence within the local limits of her/his jurisdiction.
An officer in charge of a police station may discharge a person arrested without warrant on any charge – after due police inquiry – when insufficient evidence is disclosed on which to proceed with a charge. On the other hand where it appears to the police officer in charge of the police station that the inquiry into the case cannot be completed, she/he may release that person on executing a bond to appear at a place and time named in the bond.
Under Ugandan law the arrest of a person leads to her/his police custody, thus the competent authorities are the same as judicial arrest, except when the arrest is made by a private person:
- A magistrate and a police officer are competent to place the person arrested in police custody after proceeding to her/his arrest;
- A private person shall – without unnecessary delay – bring the person she/he arrested before a police officer who will re-arrest the person and then place that person in police custody.
What are the legal safeguards for police custody?
Custody with a warrant
The person executing a warrant of arrest shall notify its substance to the person arrested (and if required shall show her/him the warrant). Then she/he shall – without unnecessary delay – bring the person arrested before the court named in the warrant.
Custody without a warrant
Officers in charge of police stations shall report to the nearest magistrate within 24 hours the cases of all persons arrested without warrant within the limits of their respective stations, whether the persons have been admitted to bail or otherwise.
- When a person arrested has been taken into custody without a warrant – for an offence other than murder, treason or rape – the officer in charge of the police station to which the person is brought:
- shall bring that person before an appropriate magistrate’s court within 24 hours after she/he was so taken into custody;
- shall release the person arrested on executing a bond – with or without sureties and for a reasonable amount – to appear before a magistrate’s court at a time and place named in the bond, if it is not practicable to bring the person arrested before a magistrate’s court within 24 hours after custody, or if the offence is of a serious nature.
- When a person arrested is retained in custody, that person shall be brought before a magistrate’s court as soon as practicable.
Legal duration of police custody
The Ugandan constitution states a person arrested shall be brought to court not later than 48 hours from the time of her/his arrest. The period runs from the arrest of the person, and if no charges are brought against the person arrested at the end of that period the person shall be then released.
The magistrate before whom the accused person first appears after the expiration of the custody period shall release that person on bail:
- if the accused person has been remanded in custody before trial commences for a continuous period exceeding:
- 480 days in case of an offence punishable by death;
- 240 days in case of any other offence;
- The accused person has been committed to the High Court for trial before the expiration of that period;
- The magistrate considers – for the protection of the public – the accused person should not be released from custody.
Custody with a warrant of arrest
The officer to whom the warrant is directed shall release the person from custody:
- If the person arrested executes a bond with sufficient sureties for her/his attendance before the court and at the time specified in the bond, and;
- If the warrant of arrest – for an offence not punishable by death – issued against that person mentioned that possibility.
The endorsement on the warrant issued by a magistrate court shall state:
- the number of sureties;
- the amount in which they and the person for whose arrest the warrant is issued are to be respectively bound;
- the time at which such person is to attend before the court.
Custody without a warrant of arrest
A person arrested without a warrant shall be brought before a magistrate’s court within 48 hours, except when that person need to be questioned in a different area of her/his arrest then it is within seven days .
If the person arrested is not suspected of murder, rape, treason or an offence of serious nature, and:
- it is not possible to bring the person arrested before the Court within 24 hours, then the police officer can release the person arrested from custody with a bond;
- it appears to the police officer in charge of the case that it is not possible to end the investigation within 24 hours then the police officer can release the person arrested from custody with a bond;
- it appears to the police officer in charge of the case there are not enough proofs against the person in custody, she/he can withdraw the charges against the person arrested and release her/him at once.
Place of police custody
A person arrested, restricted or detained shall be kept in a place authorised by law and these places are to be officially gazetted by the Minister of Internal Affairs.
On the other hand, the Prison act allows a police officer or any other law enforcement officer to arrest and detain an accused person in a lock-up, but in any case for not more than 48 hours from the time of his or her arrest. A “lock-up” is a place maintained by a district or a police force, where arrested persons are temporarily detained, pending production in court.
Furthermore untried prisoners, as a person restricted in custody, shall be kept separate from convicted prisoners because they are prisoners who are presumed to be innocent.
Rights of persons in police custody
Right to counsel
A person restricted shall be informed immediately of her/his right to a lawyer of her/his choice. In addition, she/he has the right to a reasonable access to her/his lawyer. In the case of an offence which carries a sentence of death or imprisonment for life, the person arrested has to right to counsel at the expense of the State.
An untried prisoner is allowed to apply for free legal aid and to receive visits from a legal advisor. Moreover the interviews between the untried prisoner and the legal advisor may not be within the hearing of an officer.
Right to access case files
The Uganda law does not give information on the right to access case files during police custody, but a person arrested shall be notified of the substance of the warrant of arrest.
Right to see a doctor
A person restricted shall be allowed reasonable access to a doctor and medical treatments at her/his cost.
Right to information
In a language understood, a person restricted shall be informed immediately of the reasons of the nature of the offence and the right to a lawyer of her/his choice.
In addition the next-of-kin of the person restricted shall be informed as soon as possible of restriction, at the request of that person.
When a person is restricted under state of emergency that person shall:
- be informed of the grounds upon which she/he is restricted within 24 hours;
- be allowed access to a person named to inform that person of her/his restriction within 72 hours;
- be published in the Gazette and in the media stating that she/he has been restricted and the grounds of her/his restriction within 30 days.