By Rohey Jadama
Patricia Fangawa, in her evidence in chief as the first prosecution witness (PW1) in the criminal trial involving Saikou Fatty, a former magistrate at the Bundung Court, said the accused person threatened to write his arrest when she told him to refund the twenty thousand he allegedly took from her earlier as a bribe to settle her case out of court.
The state was represented by M. Jobe, M. Faye and A. Jobarteh, whilst Lamin S. Camara represented the accused person.
Testifying before Magistrate Hilary Abeke of the Bundung Magistrate’s Court, PW1 said she lives in Tallinding and that she is a business woman by profession. She said she recognises the accused person.
She told the court that she can recall the month of March 2014 as she had a civil case before the accused person and that she was the defendant in that case and was given a summon to appear before the court.
PW1 told the court that the accused called her in his office and she paid D8000 contribution for the ‘Osusu’ case and was issued a receipt. She said the accused called her and said that as a business woman she will not have the time to be coming to court every day. She said the accused told her that he wanted to settle the matter out of court and that he had spoken to Julius who accepted the proposal as they are friends. She said he told her that it is now left to her to decide. She said she then told the accused that she will think about it. She said Joseph also talked to her and said it is better for her accept the proposal.
Madam Fangawa told the court that she went back to the accused person’s office and the accused told her that she should go and collect the D8000 from the accountant as he (accused) had already paid him the money. She said she collected the said money from the said account’s office and after a receipt was issued to her. She said she came back to the office of the accused person and that he (accused) took the D8000 from her. She said he further told her to bring extra D10, 000 after which he will talk to Julius so that the matter will be settled.
PW1 said the accused told her that the case was settled and that she should give him something since it was settled out of court but that she told him that she does not have money at the time. She said the accused called her later between 4pm and 5pm asking her to meet him around “Cow Junction.”
Madam Fangawa told the court that she met with him and gave him D2000 and a black and gold wrist watch and that the accused told her that the case was finished.
PW1 continued that she later received a called from the Bundung Magistrate’s Court informing her that she has a case there and did not attend. “I said ahh! My case is finished,” she said.
She said she came to Bundung Magistrate’s Court and asked for Magistrate Fatty and was told that he was transferred to Brikama-Ba. She said the case then proceeded and she was asked to pay.
PW1 told the court that after the judgment, she immediately called the accused and told him that she wanted her money back in order to settle her debt but the accused responded by threatening to order for her arrest.
She said this had prompted her to run to the Sierra Leone Embassy to inform them about the issue and that the Ambassador instructed her to write to the Chief Justice and the State House and which she did. She added that after that the police intervened.
At this juncture, the prosecution applied to tender the two receipts that were issued to PW1 by the accused. There was no objection from the defence and the application was granted. It was marked Exhibits A and B respectively.
Under Cross-Examination by Lamin S. Camara, the witness was asked whether the suit she was summon before Magistrate Fatty is D20, 000 and she replied in the affirmative.
“Does it make sense to you to pay D20, 000 as a bribe to the accused instead of the plaintiff?” asked counsel Camara.
The prosecution objected to the question, arguing that it is soliciting the opinion of the witness as to the reasonability or otherwise for paying the sum of twenty thousand to the accused person instead of the plaintiff which is prohibited by Section 166 of the Evidence Act.
Lawyer Camara, in response, said the question is in place and that he agreed with his learned friend that section 166 of the Evidence Act prohibits soliciting the opinion of a witness. “But is this question really seeking the opinion of the witness?” he asked.
He further argued that this is not an opinion but rather a statement of fact on whether it is wise to give the accused D20, 000 or the plaintiff.
The trial magistrate, at this juncture, adjourned the case to Thursday, 15th January, 2015 for ruling on the prosecution’s objection and continuation of cross-examination of PW1.
By Rohey Jadama