Magistrate fired for poor judicial conduct

Wednesday April 17 2019

 

KAMPALA. A Grade One Magistrate has been dismissed from the judicial service with immediate effect for being a habitual offender in corruption and abuse of judicial authority.

Ms Grace Balintuma was dismissed following a resolution by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), a government body mandated to recruit and discipline judicial officers. The JSC made the resolution at a meeting on September 27, 2018 under minute 239/2018.

At the time of her dismissal, Ms Balintuma was on interdiction with her last duty office being Kakiri court.

“The commission noted that you have been a habitual offender who has defied several warnings, written undertakings, severe reprimands and interdiction,” reads the dismissal letter to Ms Balintuma.

 

The dismissal

The March 29 dismissal letter was authored by Dr Rose Nassali Lukwago, the permanent secretary of the JSC, and sent to the Judiciary.

“It is the determination of the commission that you are not a fit and proper person to continue serving in the Judiciary. The commission thus resolved that you be dismissed from the judicial service with immediate effect,” the letter further states.

She had been charged with three counts under the JSC Regulation S1 87/2005. She was accused of acting in contravention of the Code of Judicial Conduct and abusing her judicial power.

“On the basis of the evidence adduced to the commission, her Worship Balintuma Grace, the Magistrate Grade One, was found to have committed the offences as set out in the respective counts,” the letter reads.

Speaking to this newspaper yesterday, Dr Nassali said: “The JSC followed the due process following a series of complaints against her. She was invited and she interfaced with a disciplinary committee which later recommended to the full commission to deem it fit to dismiss her.”

Dr Nassali stated that the commission is committed towards cleaning up the Judiciary.

Last year in August, the Judiciary suspended the same magistrate, who at the time was attached to Kakiri court, over poor work. Her file was sent to the JSC for further investigations.

In this complaint, it was alleged that while Ms Balintuma was hearing a land dispute in a criminal case in 2017; Uganda versus Ssajjabi Samuel and two others, she issued a civil order that reflected incompetence.

The notice directed the accused to return to the disputed land, which order was illegal. The suspect in the case had been charged with conspiracy to commit a felony.

Ms Balintuma came to the limelight in 2015 when she was charged with theft of pension money belonging to deceased soldiers.

She was charged with two counts of theft and two counts of intermeddling in property of a deceased person contrary to the Administrator General’s Act.

She was at the time attached to Moroto Court. She was only let off the hook by Buganda Road Court after she returned Shs32m to the rightful family members of the deceased.

 

Complaints

 

The commission also named eight of the previous complaints that had been brought.

1. While working as Grade Two Magistrate at Njeru Court, Ms Balintuma released suspects on a capital charge on bail before the mandatory period had expired.

2. She entertained and granted bail to accused persons in the absence of a prosecutor.

3. She was found culpable when she acted on a file in a part heard case by a different magistrate.

4. In 2007, she was reprimanded and given a warning by the then Chief Registrar over corruption.

5. In 2007, she was severely reprimanded for handling matters beyond her jurisdiction.

6. In 2008, she was found guilty of a prejudicial conduct, abuse of judicial authority and handling a matter beyond her jurisdiction.

7. She was tried by the internal disciplinary committee of the Judiciary for forcing herself on the premises of the Ministry of Justice and acting rudely, which was an irregular conduct for a judicial officer.

8. In 2015, she was charged for theft of Shs46m and intermeddling in an estate of a deceased person. (NMG)