The Court of Appeal has set aside a decision by High Court directing the head of Community Policing in Uganda Police Force Anatoli Muleterwa to compensate a woman with 50 million Shillings over her missing vehicle that was found auctioned.
The Court of Appeal Justices Monica Mugenyi, Geoffrey Kiryabwire and Remmy Kasule have quashed the decision made by Justice Lydia Mugambe to compensate the vehicle owner Adrine Kemirembe on grounds that the monies were excess given the circumstances of the case.
Instead, they have directed that Muleterwa pays 10 million Shillings as nominal damages on grounds that the car in question was illegally auctioned by the Uganda Police Force under his supervisory watch and; that although there was a legal injury or loss met by Kemirembe, that type of compensation is what ought to have been awarded to her in the circumstances that she was unable to prove to court how exactly the loss occurred.
According to the Judgement, Kemirembe has been ordered to pay half of the total costs of Muleterwa at the High Court and the Court of Appeal since his appeal has partly succeeded.
In June 2020, High Court Judge Lydia Mugambe ordered Muleterwa to pay 50 million Shillings out of 282 million Shillings that she had been slapped on government for auctioning a car Nissan Datsun pickup, registration number; UAE 130H belonging to Kemirembe that had been reported missing to police in 2008.
The car was stolen from the Makerere University main library parking lot where Kemirembe’s husband Alex Ssebagala had left it. But Kemirembe reported the case to a number of police stations in the country including Central Police Station where Muleterwa was the then Liaison Officer however she couldn’t get it until when he met people driving it and when she demanded for it, she was reportedly told that they had hired it from Muleterwa.
As a result, Kemirembe who had reportedly bought the car in issue at 12 million Shillings in 2006 sued the Attorney General and Muleterwa in the High Court demanding for compensation for loss of vehicle and earnings from it.
Justice Mugambe accordingly awarded her 282 million shillings and Muleterwa was supposed to pay 50 million Shillings out of this total award.
But not happy with the decision, Muleterwa through his lawyers Patrick Mugisha, Emma Kigenyi and Albert Mooli appealed against it raising five grounds. He argued that the learned trial Judge erred in law and fact when she ordered him to pay 50 million shillings out of the respondent’s total award or be committed to civil prison.
Court also heard that the learned trial Judge erred in law when she failed to properly evaluate the evidence on record and reportedly arrived at an erroneous decision by finding him individually liable for the loss of the car thereby occasioning miscarriage of justice.
Muleterwa also accused Justice Mugambe of having failed to give a reasoned judgement and instead he said she was emotional and biased against him before also condemning him to pay costs to Kemirembe.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police Muleterwa denied individual liability for auctioning of the car as well as any negligence on his part in relation to its sale adding that the Police Act protects police officers from personal liability for acts taken in obedience of a court warrant.
Muleterwa argued that there was a court order and the car had been listed as number 248 of the items okayed by court to be auctioned and therefore Lady Justice Mugambe wrongly attributed personal liability to him.
He added that there was no negligence on his side because the vehicle in issue went missing on November 14th 2008 when Muleterwa was doing a Police Cadet Training Course and as such he couldn’t have investigated the lost vehicle because he was not yet a police officer and by the time the auctioning took place, he was reportedly no longer at CPS.
However, Kemirembe was represented by lawyer Raphael Baku who insisted that Muleterwa was personally liable because despite being aware of the search operations, for the lost car, he was involved in the illegal sale purportedly to his wife, Margaret Kiiza.
However, in their Judgement, the Court of Appeal Justices have ruled that there was no proof to find Muleterwa liable of the fraudulent misconduct since there was no proof that Kiiza who bought the car at one million shillings was his wife and that the actual amounts Kemirembe was earning from the car was not proven.
“Having found under my consideration that the actual income earned from the respondent’s car was not proved, it follows that there was no solid basis for the measure of general damages awarded by the trial court”,reads the judgement in part.
“Consequently it’s not readily ascertainable on what basis the trial court assessed and awarded the sum of UgShs 150,000,000 as general damages. As it can be deduced from its decision as reproduced above, there was no basis whatsoever for that measure of general damages.”
As such, the Justices have ruled that whereas there was breach of statutes or violations that was established by the lower Court, the real damage from where it was arising was not well demonstrated.
In their view, the lower Court ought to have awarded nominal damages.