By Yankuba Jallow
The fiat of the Attorney General, signed on 24 October 2016, permitting the case of 30 civil servants to proceed at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court was produced in court yesterday 1 November, 2016. The magistrate Kebba Baldeh admitted it and it was taken as one of the exhibits.
The 30 civil servants are all charged with two counts namely neglect of official duty contrary to section 113 of the Criminal Code and abuse of office contrary to section 90 of the Criminal Code.
Prosecutor Badjie told the court that the 2nd, 3rd and 12th accused persons were granted bail by the court. He argued that the case is a criminal case and they should endeavour to avail themselves at any given time. “They have been absent over and over again, since we cannot ascertain their reasons, we will apply to the court to revoke its previous bail given to them and order for their arrest to make them available at every hearing of the case”, submitted Sub Inspector Badjie. He told the court that they are ready to proceed with the case but the absence of the 2nd, 3rd and the 12th accused persons will hinder the hearing.
Defence Counsel Camara told the court that “Not only the 2nd, 3rd and the 12th accused persons are absent, the 29th and the 30th accused persons have never attended any of the court proceedings so the prosecutors cannot rely on that as an issue. The counsel relying on the absence of the accused persons impeding the trial of the case is not correct,” submitted Counsel Camara
He argued that the trial cannot proceed in the absence of the accused but added that the third accused person is being represented by him so the trial can continue. He argued that bail revocation due to the absence of the accused person’s absence is not automatic and is wrong in law to revoke without following the procedures that follows it. “The court summons for the sureties to appear before the court, the court summons the sureties to produce the accused person and in the event that the sureties cannot produce the accused persons they should explain to the court the reason why the accused person is not coming for hearing,” he submitted.
He said the prosecutors should strike out the names of the 29th and the 30th accused person as they cannot be tried in absentia. He urged the court not to consider the application of the prosecutors.
Counsels Njie and Senghor all associated themselves with the submissions of Counsel Camara.
The prosecutor wanted the accused persons to take their plea but the defence opposed this.
Counsel Njie reminded the court of its previous ruling on the 18th October 2016, that apart from fiat, pleas cannot be taken in the absence of the other accused persons.
Magistrate Baldeh, in his ruling, said the sureties should come to court on the next adjourned date and tell the court why the accused persons were not present. “If the sureties did not appear on the said date, the accused persons when seen in the jurisdiction should be arrested and the bail will be revoked,” he said.
The case is adjourned till 14th November 206 at 1pm.