Africa-Press – Tanzania. THE Court of Appeal has ordered the release from prison convicted poacher Kulwa Nassoro, who was found in unlawful possession of a leopard skin, which is a government trophy, valued at 3,500 US dollars (about 5.6m/-) during Operation Tokomeza in 2013.
Justices Shaban Lila, Winfrida Korosso and Mary Levira ruled in favour of Nassoro, the appellant, while determining an appeal he had lodged to oppose the findings of the High Court and that of the trial District Court of Ilala.
They reversed both the conviction of unlawful possession of government trophies and the sentence imposed on the appellant of either paying a 56m/- fine or being jailed for 20 years in default of paying the fine after noting that the district court lacked jurisdiction to try the appellant.
“We thus invoke the revisional powers vested in this Court by Section 4(2) of the (Appellate Jurisdiction Act) and hereby quash the proceedings and the judgments of both the trial court and the High Court. “We similarly quash the conviction and set aside the sentence and orders imposed on the appellant, hence, the immediate release of the appellant from prison unless he is otherwise lawfully held is ordered,” the justices declared.
According to them, before a subordinate court tries an economic offence, it has to be conferred with the jurisdiction to try such a case upon certification by the hand of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) or his subordinates to proceed as such.
Thus, they pointed out, where the certificate conferring jurisdiction to the District Court conferred jurisdiction for the appellant to be tried for an offence which was not consented to, it renders the certificate to be erroneous.
The justices held, therefore, that the consent and the certificate conferring jurisdiction on the subordinate court to try an economic offence were both erroneous and rendered the two documents inconsequential since the law was not complied with.
Under the circumstance, they said, undeniably the District Court of Ilala lacked jurisdiction to try the appellant on the offence charged.
“Taking all the circumstances of this case, we firmly hold that the trial against the appellant was a nullity and the proceedings and judgment of the High Court on appeal was thus based on proceedings which were a nullity,” they ruled.
On November 1, 2013 at Pugu Kajiungeni area within Ilala District in Dar es Salaam, the appellant was found in possession of a government trophy without permit, that is, one leopard skin valued at 3500 US dollars, equivalent to 5,600,000/-, the property of the United Republic of Tanzania.
This incident occurred when “Operation Tokomeza”, which involved Police Officers, Natural Resource Officers and officers from other security organs was being implemented in Dar es Salaam and Coast Regions.
On the date of incident, when the “operation team” was within Kisarawe District, they received information from an informer that there was someone selling leopard skin.
Some of the team members followed up the information up to where the appellant was.
The appellant was found with leopard skin at her house, questioned and thereafter put under restraint, the operation team, dissatisfied with her response on why she had the leopard skin.
She was kept under custody and was consequently arraigned in the District Court of Ilala on the charges as found in the charge sheet.
The leopard skin alleged to have been seized from the appellant was taken to the Police Station and on November 4, 2014, was evaluated and valued accordingly.
In her defence, the appellant pleaded innocent possession. She contended that she had stayed with the skin for five years having been handed the same by a Truck driver after spending a night at her house.
The trial court having heard the appellant’s and the respondent’s cases believed the prosecution evidence and proceeded to find the appellant guilty as charged and convicted her accordingly. Her appeal to the High Court was unsuccessful.