By Yankuba Jallow
The Banjul High Court has requested for the State to give the defense witness statements in the ongoing criminal trial of the former officers of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
The Judge presiding over the trial, Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara averred that the provision of the Constitution under Section 24 (3) is clear, that the State should afford the defence facilities necessary in order for them to prepare their defense.
The ruling came about when the attorney for the 1st accused person, Yankuba Badjie, told the court that the defence has not been served with witness’ statements as directed by the Court in its previous ruling. The State prosecutor, Lawyer Antouman AB Gaye responded saying ‘‘we are serving them as he is talking.’’ Counsel Chime told the Court that it is not a principle of a criminal case to be taken by surprise.
“We will not succumb to trial by ambush,” Chime said.
He made the objection saying the witness’ statements should not be served in piece meal but rather in a bundle. Counsel Patrick Gomez associated himself with Lawyer Chime’s objections and referred the Court to Section 24 (3) of the Constitution.
Lawyer Lamin S. Camara for the State in his response to the defence’s objections, said the objection is misconceived and that the defence has failed to differentiate civil and criminal trials.
“There is no requirement in the laws for witness statements to be filed at the commencement of the criminal trial” he said.
He said the defence has given over elastic definition of Section 24 (3) of the Constitution and further referred the Court to Sections 175 C, 175 B and 237 (2) of the criminal procedure code.
“The objection lacks merit,” he said.
Counsel Ibrahim Jallow for the 3rd accused person, Sheikh Omar Jeng, associated himself with Lawyer Chime’s submissions and referred the Court to Section 7 (d) of the Constitution. He held that that provision of the Constitution provides that Common Law and the Principles of Equity, are part of the laws of the Gambia. He told the court that their objection is in accordance with the practice of Common law, citing the case of R v Clerk (1922) and Black Stone Criminal Practice (1992). Lawyer Lamin Camara in his reply on points of law said, Section 7 is not applicable in this matter and referred the Court to Section 208 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The court in hearing from both the defense and State arguments, held that the witness statements should be served before the trial in order to give the defense time to prepare. The case was adjourned to today at 12 noon for hearing of prosecution witness 3.