Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - Police in The Gambia commercial city of Serrekunda, 15km outside Banjul, Wednesday charged the pressure group ‘3 Years Jotna’ leaders with three counts of unlawful assembly, rioting after proclamation and demolishing structures.
After spending 72 hours in detention, police prosecutors representing the inspector general of police charged the eight leaders.
Meanwhile, when the case was called before Magistrate Pierrette Mendy Sarr of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court, she transferred it to the Special Criminal Court Division at the High Court in Banjul, saying it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case.
The accused, Abdou Njie, Yankuba Darboe, Ebrima Kitim Jarju, Sheriffo Sonko, Fanta Mballow, Kassim Touray, Haji Suwaneh, and Muctarr Ceesay, are charged with unlawful assembly, contrary to Section 70 of the Criminal Code, cap 10:o1 Vol III Laws of The Gambia 2009, rioting after proclamation contrary to Section 74 of the Criminal Code, cap 10:01 Vol III Laws of The Gambia 2009, rioters demolishing structures, contrary to Section 76 of the Criminal Code cap 10:01 Vol III Laws of The Gambia .
In his submission, police prosecuting officer Superintendent M.D. Mballow submitted that counts one (1) and two (2) attracted an imprisonment of one and five years respectively while count three (3) attracted life imprisonment.
“Our laws do not confer on this court with the power to try offences that attract life imprisonment,” he said, relying on Legal Notice number 3 of 2009, which provides for a Special Criminal Division of the High Court to try offences such as count three because it attracts the sentence of life imprisonment.
Mballow argued that the legal notice formed part of the laws of The Gambia in relation to Section 7 of the constitution.
“Legal Notice number 3 of 2009 takes away the jurisdiction of this honourable court to try count 3 (rioters demolishing structures),” Mballow said.
He said since the “legal notice oust the court’s power to try the offence”, it should transfer the matter to the high court and remand the accused persons pending their arraignment before the high court.
However, in his counter argument, lead defense Lawyer Lamin S Camara said: “This court has the jurisdiction to try this case. This court has all the powers under section 5 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) (powers of the subordinate courts).”
“Sentence to life imprisonment is not mandatory under our laws, unlike treason, which attract death. The court can reduce sentences including life imprisonment sentences,” he said.
Mballow, in his reply on points of law, said Section 5 of the CPC provided that the court “shall not derogate from the law that confers jurisdiction to another court”.
He said Legal Notice number 3 of 2009 was a law envisaged and recognised by Section 7 of the constitution, adding that “Section 27 of the CPC deals with punishment and it has no bearing in the argument”.
“This court cannot deal with an offence that it does not have jurisdiction to try. Capital offence does not exclude offences that attract life imprisonment. Capital offence includes life imprisonment,” he submitted.
Presiding Magistrate Sarr remanded all eight accused persons at the State Central Prison, Mile Two, pending their appearance at the high court in Banjul.
-0- PANA MSS/RA 29Jan2020