The African Law Service brings diverse commentary on legal developments from across our African continent.
Four months ago, we published an enthusiastic story about a new law in Uganda. It was headed, ‘Uganda’s brave new human rights law takes enforcement to a new level’.
This important new law introduced a number of ways to ensure that human rights were respected, including holding state officials responsible for all or part of the legal costs if they were found to have infringed the new law, Officials would also be liable for part of any damages awarded.
This is the first time I have read judgment in a rape trial heard by the High Court of Sierra Leone. There are several ways in which it is different from cases in other jurisdictions involving child rape or ‘defilement’ as it is sometimes called, and some of these differences are worth pointing out.
Our law recognises a variety of ways in which a person may involve him/herself in crime. One may, for example strangle someone to death with one's own hands, stone someone to death jointly with one or more others, keep a lookout while others rob and kill someone, hire someone to kill for you, incite others to commit murder, loan someone a gun with which to kill another, or assist someone to dispose of the dead body, amongst other things.
Negligence – also known as culpa – is a lesser form of fault relative to intention. It is easier for the prosecution to prove and it usually attracts a lesser sentence than a conviction for the same conduct where the form of fault is intention. So, a conviction for culpable homicide would ordinarily attract a lesser sentence than for murder.
Intention in law has a technical meaning. It includes more than what may ordinarily be understood by the term. It extends beyond what a person may have as his/her purpose (dolus directus), and beyond even what is not one’s purpose but which is foreseen as inevitable (dolus indirectus). It extends to what is neither one’s purpose nor foreseen as inevitable, but to what is nevertheless foreseen as a (real) possibility - dolus eventualis.