Court Orders Trial within Trial in Soldier’s Case

By Mamadou Dem

Principal Magistrate Isatou Janneh-Njie of the lower court in Banjul on Tuesday 7th February, 2017 granted an application made by the defence for a voire dire in the ongoing criminal trial involving Sergeant Babucarr Njie of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF).

Prior to granting the said application, attorney for the accused, Sheriff Kumba Jobe objected to the admissibility of both cautionary and voluntary statements obtained from his client on grounds that the statements weren’t obtained voluntarily.  “We asked the court to order for a voire dire,” he submitted.

He finally referred the court to section 33 of the Evidence Act to back his objection.

Earlier, Inspector Jally MI Senghore attached to the Major Crime Unit of the Gambia Police Force (GPF) testified as the first Prosecution witness (PW1) during which he informed the court that he recognized the accused person and stated that on the 10th of February, 2017 the accused was brought to their office for possible investigation.

He said he obtained the cautionary and voluntary statements of the accused person in the presence of an independent witness by the name Fabakary Kinteh; adding that both statements were read to the accused and both of them signed.

When asked whether he would be able to identify the statements if shown to him, he responded in the affirmative. At that juncture, the prosecution applied to tender the said statements in evidence as exhibits but the defence quickly objected on its admissibility arguing that they were not served with the documents sought to be tendered.

Delivering the ruling, the trial Magistrate upheld the defence’s objection and ordered for a voire dire in order to determine the voluntariness of the statements. Consequently, the matter was adjourned till 15th March for trial within trial

Sergeant Njie is standing trial on a single count charge of going armed in public contrary to the laws of the Gambia. Prior to being charged, he was apprehended by ECOMIG soldiers at King Fahad Mosque in Banjul when he allegedly attempted to enter the said mosque with a pistol at a time when President Barrow was observing a congregational prayer (Juma).