Police Officer Testifies in Voire Dire Trial

By Mamadou Dem

Inspector Jally MI Senghore of the Gambia Police Force (GPF) attached to the Major Crime Unit, yesterday 23rd March, 2017 testified as the second prosecution witness in the ongoing criminal trial involving Sergeant Babucarr Njie of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF).

According to PW2, on the 10th day of February, 2017, the accused was brought before him for interrogation and obtained statements from the accused. He said prior to obtaining the accused statements, he went down to look for an independent witness. “I met one man whom I later knew as Fabakary Kinteh. I introduced myself to him and took him to my office,” said the witness.

He continued “I told him that I wanted him to be present as independent witness and should follow the process between me and the accused person. I then recorded the statement and it was interpreted to the accused in the Wolof language. Upon completion of the statements, he (accused) endorsed and the independent witness also endorsed and I signed.”

At this juncture Police Prosecutor, Sub-Inspector Abdoulie Bojang applied to tender the said statements in the voire dire but attorney for the accused person, Sheriff Kumba Jobe attempted to object but the trial Magistrate indicated to him that it was proper for the documents to be admitted in the trial within trial because the court will make reference to the documents when delivering the ruling on the voire dire. Consequently, both statements were admitted and marked accordingly.

Under cross-examination by the defence, lawyer Jobe asked “How long have you been a Police Officer?” “Seven Years,” replied the witness. He asked, “When where you attached to the major crime unit?” “Seven Years ago,” Pw2 responded. “In essence you are well experience in investigations right?”  He quizzed. “Yes,” Senghore replies.

“So would you be in position to tell this court the official working hours of this country?,”  asked counsel. “No,” said Pw2. Counsel asked, “What are your own official working hours as a member of the Gambia Police Force?” “We don’t have specific working time,” disclosed the witness. “I never personally investigated this case. I only obtained cautionary and voluntary statements,” Pw2 added.

According to Inspector Senghore his role as a supervisor  is usually hinted by the Investigating Police Officer (IPO). He said he can’t remember the date the accused person was arrested but the defence puts it to him that as per the charge sheet, the accused was arrested on the 10th of February, 2017. “I can’t remember,” said the witness.

Counsel asked, “Do you have any idea when the accused person was arrested where he was taken to?” The witness replied, “He was taken to ECOMIG head office.” “At what time was the accused brought to the police headquarters?” he inquired. “I cannot remember the time,” said inspector Senghore. Counsel remarked, “I am putting it to you that the accused was brought to the police headquarters on the night of the 10th February, 2017 which was the actual date he had contact with the police.” “I cannot remember,” said the witness; adding that he obtained the statements during the day.

At this juncture, counsel then told the witness since he admitted obtaining the statements during the day let him tell the court the time he recorded the statements but the witness said he can’t remember the time.

“ Since you  have admitted in court that the accused person was arrested on the 10th of February and taken to the ECOMOG base in Fajara, it’s not possible for the statement to be recorded on the 10th of February, 2017?,” he asked “ I obtained his statement on the 10th day of February, 2017,” said Senghore. Counsel said, “It’s correct that on the 10th was on a Friday?” He replied, “Perhaps.”

Counsel noted, “It’s equally correct since the accused is a soldier he is literate?” “I am not sure,” replied the witness. “Mr. Senghore  in your evidence in-chief you never stated that you asked the accused person to author his statement?” Witness responded, “I asked him to do so but he asked me to author his statement.” Counsel asked, “As an experienced investigator why don’t you tell the accused to author his statement?” Senghore replied, “I asked him to write it but he insisted and said I should write it.” “Mr. Senghore would it surprise you to know that the independent witness Fabakary Kinteh stated in category terms that you only read the cautionary statement of the accused and you asked him to narrate and you write it as it was coming.” “Yes I will be surprised,” he admitted. Counsel remarked, “In essence, the independent witness was not saying the truth you are the one saying so?” “Well both of us were under oath. I don’t know how many people were present but the statements were taken in the office,” said Pw2.

Counsel remarked, “As an experienced investigator, you are aware of the judge’s rules?” He replied, “I never claimed to be an experienced investigator and am aware of the judge’s rules,” he reacted. Counsel asked, “It’s correct that the first time you met the accused was at night?” “I met him on the 10th of February, 2017,” confirmed the witness.

“All what you said in this court had not happen but your own sugar coated version,” lawyer Jobe alleges. The witness responded that all what he said before the court was the truth.

At this point, prosecution announced the closure of their case in trial within trial. Consequently, the matter was adjourned to 30th of this month for the accused to open his defence in the voire dire.

Sergeant Njie is standing trial for ‘Going arm in public’ contrary to the laws of the Gambia when he attempted to enter a mosque in Banjul with a pistol where President Barrow was observing a congregational prayer (Juma).