The High Court presided over by Justice Ebrima Jaiteh yesterday dismissed the bail application filed by eight former officials of the defunct National Intelligence Agency (NIA) indicted with a criminal count of accessory after the fact to murder.
The suspects, Quassy Mendy, Leon Gomez, Bakary Jammeh, Malafi Jarju, Ansumana Manga, Yankuba Colley, Lamin Bojang and Mamudou Badjie were allegedly accused of burying the late Solo Sandeng, the late UDP activist believed to have been brutally murdered on the night of the 14th April, 2016 at the defunct NIA headquarters in Banjul.
Justice Ebrima Jaiteh’s decision came following a ruling on the bail application filed on behalf of the eight suspects, who are currently standing trial before Justice Sainabou W. Cisse at the High Court in Banjul.
The Judge stated that the law is very clear on the point that the matters to be taken into consideration on whether or not to grant bail are; the nature of the charge, the severity of the punishment, the quality of the evidence available, likelihood of the accused jumping bail or interfering with witnesses, the criminal record of the accused if any and the likelihood of a repetition of the offence if granted bail.
He said section 99(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (the CPC) undoubtedly gives the High court the discretion to grant bail to any person other than a person accused of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life.
The High Court judge pointed out that this discretion must however, be exercised judicially having due regard to the facts and circumstances of the case and in accordance with any statutory criteria for granting of bail.
He maintained that in the instant case, the applicants are charged with accessory after the fact of murder and he has looked at the law under which the applicants are charged.
He averred that section 202 of the Criminal Code is accessory after the fact to murder, which states that a person who becomes an accessory after the fact of murder commits a felony and is liable on conviction to life imprisonment.
He acknowledged that the punishment for Accessory after the fact to murder contrary to section 202 of the Criminal Code is life imprisonment, saying in the Gambia Criminal Jurisprudence, section 99 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code creates a statutory regime in accordance with which a Court makes a determination as to bail.
He cited section 99(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code and explained that from the wordings of the said section, the court may exercise it discretion in granting bail for offences that are not punishable with death.
Justice Jaiteh disclosed that in the instant case, the Applicants are charged with an offence that is punishable with imprisonment for life.
The High Court judge made it clear that Accessory after the fact of murder is a serious offence attracting imprisonment for life, which is a factor to refuse bail to an alleged offender.
He thus underlined that he agreed that section 24(3) (a) of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia states that: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until he or she is proved or has pleaded guilty”
Justice Jaiteh pointed out that the fundamental hallmark of our criminal justice system is that a person accused of committing an offence is cloaked with a presumption of innocence adding that the society also has a poignant interest in not only ensuring that the accused will appear for any scheduled court appearances, but also in protecting itself from criminals that present a very real danger to persons or properties.
The interest of the accused, he said, must be weighed and balanced in the context of the presumption in relation to section 99 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
He further disclosed that having placed the averments of the applicants side by side with the averments in opposition and further and better affidavit in opposition on a balance of probabilities, the applicants have not established special or exceptional circumstances before the court to be considered in granting them bail.
Justice Jaiteh revealed that he consider the fears raised by the State/Respondent in their further and better affidavit in opposition, but noted that the Applicants have already been arraigned before the High Court of The Gambia, and there is no pending investigation.
The High Court judge said having regards to the severity of the punishment and purport of section 99(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code and other reasons mentioned the applicants cannot be admitted to bail.