A SERMON NEEDED FROM THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE ON THE ETHICS OF THE BENCH THE COURTS ARE TEMPLES OF JUSTICE, ORDER, DECORUM AND COURTESY

What should happen during a court proceeding if an elderly man who is accused complains that he is ill and cannot stand for long in a witness box? One would assume that as an official of the court his counsel should inform the court and request for him to be seated and the court should be expected to grant his request on the basis of constitutional principles.

In short, section 222 of the Constitution provides a conduct for judicial officers to follow in the performance of their duties. Paragraph (8) states that:

“A public officer who exercises judicial functions shall:

(a)             maintain order and decorum in judicial proceedings before him or her;

(b)            be patient, dignified and courteous to all litigants, witnesses, legal practitioners and others in the exercise of such functions, and shall require similar conduct from his her staff and others subjected to his or her control.

(c)             Abstain from comment about the outcome of any pending or anticipated legal proceedings in any court in The Gambia and require similar abstention from his or her staff and others subject to his or her control.”

Age and health should be considered when accused persons are to request to sit or stand in a witness box. Presumption of innocence dictates that standing in the dock should not symbolise guilt or punishment.