Imagine being confined to your home, afraid of going anywhere for fear of being rearrested if you miss a court date! This is how 50-year-old Mariam felt the entire time she was on bail. Mariam had misunderstandings with her neighbor Claudia, over a water trench that bordered their land. In July 2020, this misunderstanding culminated into a physical fight that led to Mariam’s arrest. Claudia reported an assault charge against Mariam at Nateete Police Station and further accused her of stealing UGX 4,700,000 from her house which Mariam alleged was false.
At the police station, attempts were made to resolve the matter. Claudia (the complainant) wanted Mariam to compensate her with the money she had allegedly stolen and to pay for medical treatment. Mariam insisted that she was innocent of stealing any money and therefore the case couldn’t be settled at the police station. As a result the file was sanctioned and sent to Nateete/Rubaga Court for trial. Mariam appeared before court in August 2020, without a lawyer to represent her and was charged with theft of UGX 4,700,000 and assault causing actual bodily harm. After the trial her relatives stood surety for her and she was granted bail.
Mariam still felt vulnerable and terrified that she would lose the case and end up in prison. She continued showing up at court whenever she was summoned but without any legal representation. One day while Mariam was at Mmengo court waiting for her hearing session, she heard about the free legal services JCU renders through a JCU advocate that was conducting a daily while-you-wait session (this a session that’s normally conducted to make new/old clients aware of the services JCU renders & the process through which one becomes a client of JCU). Mariam could not believe her luck that there was a possibility of getting a lawyer to represent her at no cost.
Heaving a sigh of relief, she immediately grabbed this opportunity and reported her matter at the JCU Mmengo offices. This was in March 2021. JCU was able to offer her free legal representation through our Legal Officer who successfully litigated the matter until November 2021 when Mariam was acquitted of all charges. Mariam couldn’t believe her troubles were finally over. She was so overwhelmed with joy and relief that she literally left court singing songs of praise and expressing gratitude towards her lawyer.
This is a woman who was distraught for over a year. She stood up for herself by refusing to pay money she didn’t steal and sought legal assistance. She ultimately acquired justice. “I feel so relieved and relaxed. I am extremely grateful for JCU’s services. I am going around the village telling people about the presence of free lawyers in Justice Centres Uganda.” This was said by Mirembe during a follow up phone call from JCU, days after the successful trial.