High Court quashes magistrates’ Court sentence

Friday, January 05, 2018

The Banjul High Court presided over by Justice Oleidi Uduma recently quashed the conviction and sentences imposed by the Banjul Magistrates’ Court on Veronic Carayol.

Veronic Carayol filed an appeal against the conviction and sentence passed by Fatou Darboe of the Banjul Magistrates’ Court on 28 July 2015, on three count charges of abuse of office, giving false information to public servant and corrupt practices.

The appellant pleaded not guilty to all the counts and the prosecution called six witnesses and the appellant was convicted and sentenced on count one to a fine of D30,000 in default to serve two years imprisonment.

The appellant was also sentenced to a fine of D50,000 in default to serve five years imprisonment on count two and then fined D10,000 or in default to serve two years imprisonment on count three.

The appellant, dissatisfied with the decision of the lower court appealed to the High Court on 10 August 2015 and prayed the court to allow the appeal, quash the conviction and sentences.

The Appellate Judge disclosed that the appellant counsel formulated 5 issues and canvassed the issues extensively and gave detailed analyses on all the grounds of appeal and the particulars of error in law.

She further disclosed that the Appellant Counsel submitted that there was serious error in law and that the prosecution failed to discharge the burden of proving its case beyond reasonable doubts.

The State Counsel for the respondent, K. Mbye, did not file any respondent’s brief of argument but rather tendered a letter dated 9 October 2014 from AG Chambers to IGP recommending that the State Counsel said she did not file any brief and did not intend to do so rather she adopted the appellant brief of arguments in totality.  

The Judge said having gone through the grounds of appeal, record of proceedings and the appellant’s brief of argument as a Court with appellate jurisdiction, she was entitled to interfere with the findings of facts made by the trial court which she found to be perverse or not borne out of the records.

She further said she took into consideration that from the Records of Proceedings, none of the 6 prosecuting witnesses corroborated the allegation that the appellant abused her office, gave false information or was involved in corrupt practises as was alleged in the charge sheet.

Justice Uduma revealed that there were discrepancies and contradictions in the prosecution witnesses’ testimonies, noting that the provision of Section 141 (1) of the evidence Act 1994 is very clear as it requires the prosecution to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.

The prosecution could not have proved their case beyond reasonable doubt when the prosecution witnesses contradicted each other.

That in discharging the burden of proof the prosecution must prove all the essential ingredients of the offence as contained in the charge, citing the case of ARUNNA vs the State.

That a conviction could only be based on proof beyond reasonable doubt and not on mere suspicion that the accused committed the offence.  That based on the above it was hard to imagine how mere suspicions without any direct evidence substantiating that accusation could be said to be beyond reasonable doubt.

The Judge stated that there were major discrepancies and none of the prosecution witnesses corroborated the allegation that the appellant committed the offence charged. 

She added that the state counsel for the Respondent, K. Mbye, was in agreement with the appellant’s counsel that there were serious errors in law which raised proper questions over the legitimacy of the conviction of the appellant.

She referred to the letter dated 9 October 2014 where the office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice wrote to the Inspector General of Police that there was no merit on the charges against the appellant.

She, however, resolved that there was no proof of abuse of office contrary to section 90 (2) of the Criminal Code, False information to public servant contrary to section 114 (A) (B) of the Criminal Code and corrupt practices contrary to section 360 (a) of the Criminal Code.           

Justice Oleidi Uduma accordingly quashed the conviction of the appellant and set aside the judgment of the trial court by magistrate Fatou Darboe of the Banjul Magistrates’ Court dated 28 July 2015.