Legal Update – 21 March 2022

Penal Code and other laws amended

  • High Court allowed to seek assistance of Amicus Curiae in criminal proceedings
  • More powers granted to Magistrates in granting bail in economic offences
  • Penal Code punishments in various offences enhanced
  • With exceptions, no criminal cases to be filed without investigations to be completed
  • Plea agreement reigns superior in sentencing

On 8 March 2022, the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, No. 1 of 2022 (the Act) came into force. The Act aims at effecting amendments in various laws including the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), the Economic and Organized Crimes Control Act, the National Prosecutions Service Act and the Penal Code.

The Act amends section 91 of the CPA by addition of a new subsection (3) which prohibits re-arresting and charging of an accused person who has been discharged as a result of a plea of nolle prosequi (intention not to proceed with the case) by the Director of Public Prosecutions (the DPP), unless there is sufficient evidence that will warrant proceedings to commence on the accused’s first appearance before the Court. Further, the amendments add a new section 131A in the CPA in a bid to prohibit filing of criminal cases in Courts before investigation is completed. However, this provision gets water down as the said restriction does not apply in serious offences such as causing grievous bodily harm, rape, divulging public security, armed robbery, human trafficking, unlawful possession of arms or ammunition, trafficking in drugs, unlawful possession of government trophy and any other offence triable by the High Court meaning that for these offences an accused can be charged before investigations are complete.

The amendments also add a new subsection (6) to section 194D of the CPA to the effect that where there is a plea agreement entered (as a result of plea bargaining) and an accused person is convicted by the Court, the Court is obliged to sentence the said accused person in accordance with the plea agreement even where the applicable law provides for otherwise.

In addition to the above, the Act repeals section 265 of the CPA with new provisions which, among others, allow the High Court during criminal trials to seek information or advice regarding questions of law or fact from an amicus curiae. Literally, an amicus curiae is a friend of the court who is invited by the Court to render assistance/advice on technical matters based on his/her expertise or experience in a particular discipline.

Additionally, the Act amends the Economic and Organized Crimes Control Act (Cap. 200) in relation to the jurisdiction of the District Court and Court of a Resident Magistrate to hear and determine bail applications for accused persons charged with economic offences. The aim is to increase the value of property involved in the offence from TZS 10M to 300M as the amount within the power of these Courts to hear and grant bail.

The Penal Code also gets amended in order to increase the amounts of fines and sentences that will be imposed in various offences after conviction is entered. For example, throughout the Penal Code all offences punishable by fines of TZS 200 and TZS 500 are now punishable by fines of TZS 50,000 and 100,000, respectively.

The Bill leading to the Act had intended changes in the CPA to grant authority to police officers for conducting undercover operations to gather evidence, investigate or prevent the commission of an offence and not be criminally liable when doing so, but this proposed amendment has been removed from the Act.

To read a copy of the Act click here.