Court orders immediate release of convict

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Justice OleidiUko Uduma of the High Court in Banjul recently ordered the immediate release of Amadou Baldeh from prison custody after the High Court found fault with his conviction and sentence.

Amadou Baldeh was convicted on two counts of personating public officer and forgery by the Brikama Magistrtates Court on the 11 May, 2016 and sentenced to three (3) years imprisonment. 

Dissatisfied with the conviction and sentence, the appellant filed a notice of appeal to the High Court but he was unrepresented by a Lawyer both in the trial court and in the Appellate Court.

Delivering judgment, the Appellate Judge disclosed that he argued his case orally and that he pleaded not guilty to the offences charged against him and explained that the only problem he had was with his number plate and that he had quarrel with the police officers on duty because he was taken to police station and he was asked to enter behind bars, and he insisted that the police should tell him the offence he had committed. 

Justice Uduma disclosed that after an argument with the officers, he was charged before the Brikama Magistrate Court and he pleaded not guilty to the offence and at the end of the prosecution testimonies he was convicted and sentenced to 3 years.

The Appellate Judge further disclosed that the court gave 8 orders between 2016 to 2018 for the Registrar of Brikama Magistrate’s Court to make available the Record of Proceedings and all the exhibits used in the trial of the case. 

She also disclosed that the State respondent was also given 5 (five) hearing notices to appear before the court to defend the suit and that neither did the Registrar of Brikama Magistrate Court produce the Record of Proceedings nor the State respondent appear in court to defend the suit.

Justice Uduma averred that the court had no better option than to re- hear the suit and after listening to the evidence of the appellant, the court had to rely on the plea of not guilty and evidence of the appellant before the court.

She stated that there was no record available to the court to use and the court could not do otherwise than to rely on the provision of Schedule 2 Order 53 Rule17 and 18 of the High Court rules Vol 11 Cap 6.01 of the Laws of The Gambia. 

She pointed out that Order 53 Rule 17 provides that the High Court shall have power to give judgment and make any order, which ought to have been made, and to make such further or other orders as the case may require.  

There is no Record of Proceeding nor charge sheet to show what transpired in the Magistrate Court and the State respondent did not make matters any better, adding that the State respondent refused to appear in court which clearly demonstrated that they had lost interest in the case.

Justice Uduma revealed that the only evidence before the court was the testimony of the appellant that he hada misunderstanding with the police on duty and he was arraigned charged and convicted.

Justice Uduma said since there was no contradiction to the testimony of the appellant in the court, the court had no better option than to revisit the judgment passed on the appellant at the Magistrate Court.

The Appellate Judge lamented the absence of record of proceeding or judgment or charge sheet to know what transpired at the magistrate court and noted that the court is a court of records and should go by the records available to the court. 

She disclosed that it is more agreeable that the court is a court of justice and should do justice to a case and give credence to it especially where life is at stake.

Justice Oleidi U. Uduma therefore ordered that the appellant be released from prison custody immediately.

Author: Bruce Asemota