By Rohey Jadama
Justice Eunice Dada of the Banjul High Court yesterday dismissed the defence’s application to halt the trial of Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and 19 others.
Defence lawyers had asked the court to stay proceedings until the Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of some of the charges.
Meanwhile when the court also refused the request of defence counsel to order the guards of the accused to allow them to speak to the accused in camera and to consider staying the proceedings based on a Supreme Court notice, the entire defence team led by Lawyer Antouman Gaye marched out.
At the commencement of proceedings, Hadi Saleh Barkun, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with a team of state counsels appeared for the state, while Lawyer Antouman Gaye and other lawyers announced their representation of the accused persons.
In a lengthy ruling, Justice Dada said the applicant’s counsel applied for the court to stay the proceedings pending the determination of the supreme court of the constitutionality of some charges.
She added that the prosecution opposed the application and they have filed an affidavit in opposition urging the court to refuse the application.
The presiding judge stated that she totally agreed with the applicants counsels that the authority cited by the DPP is a stay-off proceedings pending appeal and the main issue before her is stay-off proceedings pending the determination of a substantive suit. She ruled that the authority cited by the DPP is not applicable in this case.
She added the previous application of the applicants which was overruled by the court was only limited to count 5 and 6 and that this one is on count 1, 2, 5 and 6. She stated that these two applications are similar.
The presiding judge said it is her considered view that the suit before the Supreme Court is a separate suit and that the applicants should have abided by the ruling of the court and appealed against it.
“ Therefore, for the above stated reasons I consider this application as lacking in merit and it is accordingly dismissed and I am calling upon the state to proceed with their case”, ruled Justice Dada
At this stage Lawyer Gaye applied for a ten minutes stand down for him to talk to his clients, this was not objected by the DPP and it was granted by the court
However, when the case resumed Counsel Gaye told the court that unfortunately they could not talk to their clients because the security personnel did not allow them to talk in camera. He further urged the court to order for them to be allowed to talk to their clients without the presence of the security personnel.
In her ruling, Justice Dada said the accused persons are not under bail and as such they are in the custody of the security and that the court cannot do anything about it.
At this juncture, Lawyer Gaye `told the court that he has a notice and that he wished to proceed with it. He continued, “In light of this document pending before the supreme court and a court served to the court, we are urging the court to give diligence and respect to the Apex Court and not to proceed with counts 1, 2, 5 and 6 until the Apex Court deals with this pending application. We are ready to proceed with those counts which are not affected by this application”.
However, the DPP objected to this application saying this issue has been dealt with. He further argued that the application is an after thought by the defence counsel. He said if they are dissatisfied with the court’s ruling they should go and appeal because this court is not the appropriate venue.
“What is before the court is not an application, but rather it is a notice and it is a principle of law that when you are notified that a matter is pending before the superior court you cannot proceed with it”, submitted Lawyer Gaye. Barrister Gaye at this stage cited an authority to support his points.
In her ruling Justice Dada said what is before her is a notice dated 8 June, 2016 urging the court to stay proceedings until the Apex Court decides on the constitutionality of the charges. She said it is her considered view that the court had earlier ruled on this.
“The court shall not stay the proceedings in any of the counts and the state shall proceed with the case in the next adjourned date”, ruled the trial judge.
“My Lady In light of the persistent refusal of the accused person’s right we are no longer taking part in this case”, submitted Barrister Gaye.
At this juncture Counsel Gaye and his team of defence counsels were seen walking out of the courtroom.
The trial judge subsequently adjourned the case till today, 9 June and Monday 13 June at 12 noon respectively for hearing.