Magistrate Hilary Abeke of the Brikama Magistrates’ Court yesterday, 24 November, 2015 denied bail to 33 young people, including one woman and an 18 year old boy, from the coastal village of Kartong in Kombo South District in the West Coast Region.
The 33 youth were indicted with five counts of misdemeanor, prohibition of conduct conducive to the breach of peace, riot, malicious injuries and riotously interfering with vehicle/vessel.
The case which started around 2pm went until after 7pm.
When the charges were read out to them in Court, all the accused persons denied any wrongdoing. As the clerk called out the names individually to announce the charges, some of the accused persons told the Court that they are not residents of Kartong and were picked up when they were at the scene.
After the charges were read, Sub Inspector K. Gibba, police prosecutor, applied for an adjournment to enable him to bring his witnesses to court.
However, the defence lawyers representing all the accused persons informed the court that they have an application to make for bail for the accused persons.
At this stage, the presiding magistrate enquired from the prosecution as to whether or not they are opposing bail.
In response, Inspector Gibba said they are opposing bail based on the following reasons: that investigation is still ongoing; that they feared that if the accused persons are granted bail, they would interfere or tamper with the investigation; that there is a likelihood that if they are granted bail they would abscond; that there is also a likelihood that they would continue to commit similar offences and that they would cause insecurity in the mining area.
Inspector Gibba finally submitted that the security of the public is the supreme law in The Gambia and that in respect of the above reasons, he is urging the court to exercise its discretion and refuse bail to all the 33 accused persons in the name of peace and tranquility.
Replying to the prosecution’s arguments, Lawyer L. Darboe, leading the defence team, argued that the fundamental right of peace and security is justice and that peace and security cannot be maintained in the absence of justice.
He said what the prosecution is saying is unrealistic, adding that the lives of citizens are at stake and that the prosecution is not good enough to tell them that investigations are still ongoing.
On the prosecution’s argument that the accused will abscond, commit similar offences and threaten public security, the defence counsel said these are frivolous and mere speculation and that the court should ignore the reasons advanced.
Lawyer L. Darboe said the offences the accused are charged with are all bailable despite the fact that some of the sentences the offences attract can be death or life imprisonment.
He cited section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), section 24 (3) (a) and 24 (3) (c) of the 1997 Constitution which are related to presumption of innocence and the accused being given adequate time and facilities to prepare for their defence.
The defence counsel further argued that the Brikama police station cannot give the accused persons the adequate facilities to prepare for their defence, adding that the Mile Two central prison is full to capacity and it is going to be very difficult for all the 33 accused persons to have adequate accommodation at the Remand Wing there.
He also referred the court to section 19 (4) and 19 (5) of the Constitution.
Lawyer L. Darboe said the courts are the last hope of citizens in any society because they provide the buffer between the State and the citizens.
He argued that most of the accused persons are not from Kartong and were picked up at the wrong place and the wrong time.
The prosecution however raised an objection, arguing that the defence counsel is giving evidence when they have not reached that stage yet.
At this stage, Edrissa Sissoho, also a defence counsel, associated himself with the submission of Lawyer L. Darboe.
Magistarte Abeke, in his ruling, upheld the objection of the prosecution, adding that the defence did not tell the court where they get the information that the Mile Two prison is full to capacity. He further added that the defence counsel is neither the commanding officer nor the director general of prisons and that that argument of him does not hold water and not important to the case.
He said the fears of the prosecution were not allayed by the defence in any way and that he has no option but to refuse bail to all accused persons. He further ordered for the accused persons to be remanded at Mile Two central prison pending their trial.
However, after the ruling of the presiding magistrate, Lawyer Sissoho craved the indulgence of the court for an expeditious trial. He applied for the case to proceed either today or tomorrow.
In response, the magistrate said he has already scheduled other matters on these two dates.
The case was adjourned to Tuesday, 1 December, 2015 for hearing.
As the accused persons were being led out of the crowded court room amid a heavy presence of armed Police Intervention Unit (PIU) personnel, this reporter observed one of them in a blood stained trousers, with a plaster on his head and walking barefooted.
While outside, it was also noticed that the villagers of Kartong came in large numbers in many vehicles.
Foroyaa will publish the charges in detail in subsequent publications.