By Mamadou Dem
Two Gambian women, Sunkarou Darboe and Saffiatou Darboe from Sankandi Village (Kiang West) were on Thursday 10th of March, 2016 dragged to court on four criminal counts ranging from “Conspiracy to commit felony’, ‘Prohibition of female circumcision’ and two counts of ‘Accomplices to female circumcision’ contrary to the laws of the Gambia.
However the duo pleaded not guilty as charged and was remanded in custody until the 15th March for the court to decide as to whether they should be released on bail or continue to languish in detention.
According to the particulars of offence on count one, the aforesaid persons on the 27th of February 2016 at Sankandi Village (Kiang West) and diverse places in the country conspired among themselves and took Aminata Drammeh, a five months old baby, to one Isatou Camara for the purposes of conducting female genital mutilation which later resulted to her death.
On count two, prosecutors are alleging that Sunkarou Darboe on the 27th February, 2016 at the said village took Aminata Drammeh, her 5 months old granddaughter, to be circumcised by one Isatou Camara resulting in her death.
The particulars of offence on the third count state that Sunkarou Darboe on the same date and year at Sankandi Village requests, incites and promotes female circumcision by taking her granddaughter Aminata Drammeh to Isatou Camara to be circumcised and which resulted to her death.
The fourth count alleges that Saffiatou Darboe on the same date and year at the said village knew that a female circumcision was taking place but failed to inform the concern authorities.
Upon entering a plea of not guilty on behalf of both accused persons, police prosecutor Corporal Modou Lamin Kora applied for a two weeks adjournment as investigations into the matter are still ongoing. “We are with a charge sheet only and not a case file,” he revealed.
Attorney for both accused persons, Lamin S. Camara did not object to the application for adjournment. However, he applied that his clients be granted bail subject to Section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code. He said the charges preferred against the accused persons are bailable offences.
“It is very clear from the charge that investigations into this matter has concluded because there is a substantive charge before the court and this court is ready for hearing,” said Barrister Camara.
“Bail is surely at the discretion of the court. I respectfully enjoined the court to exercise his discretion by granting bail to the accused persons. The essence of bail is only to grant a pre-trial to the accused which elapses upon conviction or acquittal,” he submitted.
Corporal Kora, replying to the defence’s application, urged the court to refuse bail to the accused persons on the grounds that investigations into the matter are still pending, adding that this was the reason why they were not with a case file in court.
According to the prosecutor, if the accused persons are admitted to bail, they might flee the jurisdiction and coupled with the fact that one of the suspects is still at large and they are on the search for her. “I therefore urged the court to deny the accused persons bail,” he submitted.
Reacting to the prosecution’s submission, Lawyer Camara referred to several authorities such as William John Joof and the State, Mambury Njie, amongst others. He also cited Abdoulie Tambadou and the State when the high court held that mere allegations of the accused interfering or tampering with investigations or absconding the jurisdiction is not enough for denial of bail.
“Bail is to ensure appearances of the accused persons on bond which cannot be denied as a matter of punishment. On the condition that the suspect is at large, I respectfully enjoined the court to look at the charge sheet it is not stated anywhere from count one to four where it is stated that someone is at large and that cannot be a reason for denial of bail,” said Lawyer Camara
Principal Magistrate Omar Cham, however, ruled that the accused persons remain in custody for a fortnight to enable him decide on the bail application for the accused persons. He further ordered for Sunkarou Darboe to be accorded medical attention.