By Mamadou Dem
Principal Magistrate Isatou Janneh-Njie of the Banjul Magistrates Court last Friday, 24th February, 2017 admitted bail to Sergeant Babucarr Njie of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF).
Njie is standing trial for ‘Going armed in public’ contrary to the laws of the Gambia when he attempted to enter a mosque in Banjul where President Barrow was observing a congregational prayer (Juma).
Sergeant Njie was released on bail in the sum of D75,000.00 with two Gambian Sureties who must swear to an affidavit of means. The conditions attached to his bail further stated that both sureties should deposit their National Identity Cards to the registrar of the court. They must make sure the accused appear and attend court proceedings when required. The accused was also ordered to deposit his ID card and all other documents in their original form to the registrar of the court.
Consequently, the matter was adjourned till 7th March, 2017 for hearing. Sergeant Njie’s attorney, Sheriff Kumba Jobe earlier applied for the court to grant the accused bail pursuant to section 19 of the 1997 Constitution as well as Section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code pending the determination of the single count charge meted against his client.
According to counsel, section 19 of the Constitution guarantees the liberty of the applicant and the same section gives discretion to the court to grant bail to the accused; adding that the presumption of innocence is also guaranteed. “The offence is a bailable offence,” he submitted.
The defence further submitted that if the accused is not granted bail it will tantamount to a breach of his constitutional right which he said the court may not want to see. He then cited fundamental factors which he urged the court to consider together with other authorities such as Albert Sambou vs the State and Bakary Sanyang respectively.
Amongst the factors cited by the defence includes the nature of the offence, quality of evidence, severity of the offence, the likelihood of the accused jumping bail and interfering with investigations, the criminal records of the accused and the likelihood of appearing to stand trial.
Barrister Jobe argued that the nature of the offence against the accused is a misdemeanor and the severity of the offence carried a punishment of 2 years. On the quality of evidence, he said the prosecutor couldn’t furnish the court with the case file. This he said is in favour of the accused person.
On interference of investigations, he submitted that prosecution had already said investigations into this matter are already completed; adding that his client had never been convicted for any offence and the alleged offence meted against him doesn’t happen in The Gambia occasionally.
Counsel argued that the onus of proof lies on the shoulders of the prosecution. He relied on the case of William John Joof against the Inspector General of Police as well as the case of State against Lamin AMS Jobarteh and Joseph Wowo respectively.
“The offence is not serious and there is no evidence before the court to suggest that the applicant will not present himself whenever required by the court. If refused bail, he will continue languishing in prison till the end of this trial and we don’t know when,” Barrister Jobe expounded.
“We urge the court to admit the applicant to bail by exercising its discretion in his favour,” he concluded.
Sub- Inspector Abdoulie Bojang who earlier applied for adjournment on grounds that he did not receive the case file from police investigators did not oppose the application for bail. However he urged the court to attach excessive bail conditions.
“I was told by the chief investigating officer that they are almost at the end point of their investigations, this is why we are not availed with the case file. On that note, we are applying for adjournment for prosecution to come back properly at the next adjourned date,” appealed the prosecutor.