criminal liability

Criminal liability for the dead and protection from sexual abuse

Criminal liability or possible criminal liability is extinguished by death. The death of an accused person on trial or a suspect under investigation terminates the criminal proceedings or possible criminal proceedings for such an accused or suspect. Criminal liability is personal and cannot be passed on to another person. For example, when Mukasa ,24 is shot dead by the police for his participation in an armed robbery, Mukasa’s parents or wife or siblings cannot be held liable for the actions of their dead son, or husband or brother/sister.

Talk of criminal liability is however relevant a complaint from the victim is lodged with law enforcement authorities or if the law enforcement authority, in the course of their duty pick up interest in certain circumstances and initiate an investigation into those circumstances.

Uganda’s media is awash with the story of Prof. Mukiibi Lawrence (recently deceased), proprietor of St. Lawrence schools and colleges and St. Lawrence University and his alleged sexual abuse of female students in his schools. What remains suspiciously intriguing is that his conduct was never reported by the victims, their parents, their teachers or even sniffed out by any investigative journalist in the country. How did he prey on so many young girls and still not be discovered?

Is it possible that reports were made but suppressed? Is it possible that he controlled his victims to the extent that no one had the courage to report his behavior?

Unfortunately, information about his preying on young girls came into the lime light on his funeral and a lot more after his funeral. The legal issue therefore is: Is there any remedy for the victims of his sexual abuse, especially the underage school girls who are pregnant for the deceased or those who bore the deceased’s children?

Do not expect the police to open investigations into the behavior of the deceased since a deceased person cannot be prosecuted. Neither will the police make a hypothetical decision of what a charge would be if the deceased were still alive.

There is no legal remedy for the victims. This is because the dead do not have any capacity to be sued. Criminal charges cannot be sustained against a dead person. However, his estate should be compelled to take care of those girls and their children since they were his dependents (this is the only remedy for the victims and it is available in civil law).

Sadly, there are people who are defending the deceased, on ground that since no one reported any case, then the girls must have consented to the sexual relationships  and therefore it wasn’t an assault or an abuse at all. That is a very skewed way of looking at a case of abuse against girls/women, even when one is an alumni of the deceased’s schools. It is allowed to love an institution and not love its leaders. What the professor did to those female students should be condemned in the strongest terms.

School inspectors should be more vigilant and diligent in their inspection of schools across the country. For the sexual abuse of such magnitude to have happened in the country, it shows a lapse in the judgment and execution of duties of school inspectors and the ministry of education. Investigations should be carried out in other schools and conclusive ascertainment be made that no such predatory acts are happening in those other schools.

A minor is incapable of consenting to sexual relations with an adult. It is not even a defence that the minor consented to such sexual relations. It is therefore un-sustainable both morally and legally to mention that the victimized girls consented to sexual relations with the deceased and that that’s why they didn’t report to the police.

More so, it is repugnant and against good conscience to blame a victim of sexual abuse as being a contributor to their bad fortune. Victims of sexual abuse are but simply victims. The problem is with their abuser.

Young people should be encouraged to speak out against persons who proposition them for sexual favours. This will help us breed a generation of out spoken young men and women who have no tolerance for improper conduct for those in higher positions.


This article appears in our digital law newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 6, Issue 2 of June 9th, 2017

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