Court to rule on tendering of witness statement In Veronic Carayol’s trial

By Kebba Jeffang

Following the lengthy submissions by both the prosecution and defence on Veronic Carayolthe prosecutor’s application to tender the statement of one of its witnesses in the trial of Veronic Carayol yesterday, 23 October, 2014, the case was adjourned to 30 October for the court to rule on the matter.

The fifth prosecution witness (PW3) could not complete his testimony before Magistrate Jacklin N. Hakim of the Banjul Magistrates’ Court, as the defence objected to the application made by the prosecution.

When the matter was called, the IGP was represented by police prosecutor A.S.P Musa Camara whilst Lawyer Hawa Ceesay Sabally appeared for the accused person who was present in court.

The proceeding started with the prosecution applying to tender the ‘fiat,’ the consent of the Attorney General to prosecute the accused person for ‘Abuse of office’ contrary to Section 90 (2) of the Criminal Code Cap 10 Vol. 3 laws of The Gambia as provided under Section 90 (3) of the Criminal Code Cap 10:01 Vol. 3 laws of the Gambia. The defence counsel did not object to the application, but said it should have been tendered a long time ago.

Pw3, in his testimony, identified himself as Ebrima Njie, and said he resides in Banjul and is a clearing agent by profession. He said he recognized the accused person as a custom officer. He said there was a day the accused person called him on his phone asking him to meet her in her office. He said while he was with the accused in her office, she asked her to go with one Ebou Bah to be accompanied by her driver, one William Jatta, to one of the stores to record what Ebou takes from the store.

“When we went to the store, Ebou opened the door and started un-stocking the goods in the store. I did as I was told and took back the result to the accused person in her office. This transaction has been occurring several times,” said the witness.

He adduced that he was called at the NIA and he wrote a statement regarding the case. “I will identify the said statement if shown to me because my telephone contact was indicated on it together with my photo,” he said.

PW3 identified the said statement when shown to him by the prosecutor.

At this stage, the defence counsel said she is not objecting to the witness statement but the way in which the prosecution is tendering it. She argued that the witness is in his evidence in chief and not in cross examination and that there is nowhere in the Evidence Act where a witness is called to self corroborate him or herself while giving evidence.

Counsel Sisay Sabally referred the court to Section 201, 200, 39 and 38 of the Evidence Act to back her argument, adding that the accused person will be prejudiced if the said document is admitted because it will make the witness to read his own statement which will make it a leading question. “I urged this court to disregard this application and allow the witness to continue with his testimony,” she submitted.

In reply, the prosecutor said “I submit that the objection is baseless and lacks merit. The defence counsel is not teaching us what to do,” he said.

ASP Camara further argued that the procedure he is using and which the counsel is referring to is the one to be used when you have a hostile witness. He cited Section 11 (b) and 3 of the Evidence Act to back his argument and which, he said, deals with the relevance of such cases. He added that the defence counsel did not also tell the court that the document is irrelevant but has even shown the relevance of the purported document to be tendered. He said based on Section 3 of the Evidence Act, the said document is admissible.

The defence counsel further argued that for a witness to bear a title of a ‘hostile witness’, a person must apply to the court to treat his witness as a hostile witness before that title, adding that such an application has not been made by the prosecution.

“I still maintained that this document should not be admitted and that the prosecution should not ask few questions and tender the witness statement,” she said.

At this juncture, the trial magistrate adjourned the matter for a ruling on whether the witness’ statement that the prosecution applied to tender should be admitted or disregarded by the court and for PW5 to continue giving his testimony.

The case was eventually adjourned to Thursday, 30th October, 2014 at 4pm.