Magistrate orders for mini-trial in Sukuta trio trial

By Kebba Jeffang

Magistrate Momodou S. Jallow of the Bundung Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 granted the request of the defence Sukuta Trioby ordering for voire dire (mini-trial) which will allow the 3 accused persons to narrate the circumstances in which statements were obtained from them by the investigators during their detention at Holgam in Kanifing.

The defence lawyer Abdoulie Fatty, addressing the court last week, objected to the tendering of the voluntary and cautionary statements of the accused persons, arguing that they were obtained under the condition of duress. He, therefore, urged the court to disregard the prosecution’s application to tender the said documents. He proceeded to request the court to order a trial within a trial or a mini trial (voire dire) to test the voluntariness of the statements.

However, in yesterday proceedings, ASP Amadou Keita, appearing for the Inspector General of Police (IGP), in his reply, maintained that the recording of the statements for the accused persons were in conformity with the rules and therefore the documents sought to be tendered should be admitted in court.

“It was the defence’s assertion that the principal test of admissibility of any fact is relevant to a trial. He said for the fact to be accepted as evidence, it must be sufficiently relevant. We are submitting that any statement made by a person in a document and tendering to establish that fact shall upon production of the original document should be admissible,” said the police prosecutor.

He said it is therefore the prosecution’s submission that the statements sought to be tendered (voluntary and cautionary statements) of the 3 accused persons have met the required standard of taking down statements from suspects. He added that the prosecution has laid evidence through the first witness (Pw1) and that the statements were recorded in conformity with the rules set aside by judges’ rules.

ASP Keita further submitted that it is evident that the statements were indeed recorded in the presence of an independent witness, adding that it is also evident that the accused persons were cautioned before statements were recorded from them.

He said they will rely on section 31(2) of Evidence Act and it is their submission that the statements were made voluntarily and urged the court to dismiss the defence counsel’s claim of involuntariness and further disregard his assertion that the statements were obtained under duress.

“We therefore urge this court to admit the statements sought to be tendered accordingly for the purpose of relevancy,” concluded ASP Keita.

The trial magistrate at this juncture asked the defence lawyer if he wishes to reply on points of law or will choose voire dire to determine the confession nature of his clients.

However, Lawyer Fatty told the court that he would like to open a ‘voire dire’ (mini-trial).

Consequently, the court ruled that it will open a ‘voire dire’ to test the voluntariness of the statements and that ruling on the admissibility will follow after all the 3 accused persons narrate the circumstance in which statements were obtained from them.

It could be recalled that these 3 people are from Sukuta and were arrested and are being prosecuted on sedition charges. All of them are on bail after court granted their bail application last month.

The mini trial therefore will come up on the 14th July 2016 at 10 am at the Bundung Magistrates’ Court.