By Mamadou Dem
Principal Magistrate Omar Cham of the lower court in Banjul yesterday 18th of April, 2016 convicted and sentenced Lamin Waa Juwara to six months imprisonment without hard labour. In the same vein, the trial Magistrate ordered for Tamsir Onasis Konteh, local businessman and Hamidou Jallow, Principal Lands and Evaluation Officer to pay fines or risk jail.
In passing the sentence in a fairly crowded courtroom Magistrate Cham on count one sentenced Mr. Konteh to a fine of fifty thousand dalasis (D50,000.00) in default to serve seven years imprisonment. On counts 2, 3 and 4, the same convict was asked to pay a fine of twenty-five thousand dalasis (D25,000.00) on each count in default to serve three years imprisonment on each of the counts with hard labour.
Mr. Hamidou Jallow, erstwhile Principal Lands and Evaluation Officer was sentenced to a fine of fifty thousand dalasis (D50,000.00) on count one in default to serve seven years imprisonment. He was further ordered to pay a fine of fifty thousand dalasis (D50,000.00) on count five in default to serve three years imprisonment. On Count six he was fined twenty-five thousand dalasis (D25,000.00) in default to serve two years imprisonment. On Count seven he is fined fifty thousand dalasis (D50,000) in default to serve two years imprisonment. All sentences are to run consecutively with hard labour.
Mr. Lamin Waa Juwara, former Minister of Regional Government, Lands and Traditional Rulers and one time Governor of Lower River Region was sentenced to six months imprisonment without hard labour.
Wrapping up with the marathon judgment which lasted for almost two and a half hour, the trial Magistrate noted that Waa Juwara, who was convicted on count seven, willfully and seriously neglected his duty as Minister by allowing plot number C8 and C9 of Tanji layout to be reallocated.
Prior to sentencing the convicts their attorneys, Sheriff Tambadou and Abdulai Sisohor urged the court to tamper justice with mercy; adding that the convicts had no previous records of convictions and are apparent citizens of the country married with children and have served the country while at their tender age.
The defence team further submitted that the convicts had shown remorse for the offences committed and urged the court to exercise its discretionary powers by giving an alternative punishment. They referred the court to sections 29, 32 and 267 of the Criminal Code (CC), which according to them give mandates to the trial magistrate not to impose a custodial sentence. “Any custodial sentence on the convicts would tantamount to negative effects on their families.”
The court was also appealed to consider the old age of the accused persons and services they rendered to the country. Mr. Juwara 73 is said to be suffering from hypertension and diabetes and Mr. Onasis Konteh who was one time a police officer is said to be 63 years while Hamidou Jallow is 59 years and has worked for his nation for 28 years.
It would be recalled that the convicts were standing trial on numerous criminal charges ranging from conspiracy, making false documents, uttering false documents, obtaining goods by false pretence and neglect of official duties amongst others. The trial lasted for almost three years during which the state called eight witnesses including the then deputy IGP, Edward Sambou and one Mr. Sallah from the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).