Judge questions police prosecutor’s presence at superior court

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Justice Ebrima Jaiteh of the High Court in Banjul has declared that police prosecutors have no right of audience before the Superior Courts of The Gambia, essentially the High Court and cannot be heard.

Justice Jaiteh made this declaration recently in a ruling premised on a preliminary objection raised on the appearance of M.D. Mballow, deputy commissioner of police before the High Court.

Justice Jaiteh stated that M.D. Mballow did not provide any letter of appointment from the attorney general thus appointing him as a legal practitioner or public officer to conduct proceedings in the case of Ebrima Jatta as 1st applicant, Musa Jassey as 2nd applicant and the Inspector General of Police as the respondent.

Justice Jaiteh asserted that Mr. Mballow being a Police prosecutor has right of audience at the Subordinate Courts of The Gambia but not in the Superior Courts of The Gambia.

Justice Jaiteh disclosed that M.D. Mballow does not fall under the category of prosecutors who are exempted from practicing law without a practicing certificate. 

He said M.D. Mballow admitted that he is a police officer called and enrolled as a legal practitioner and in the employment of the Ministry of Interior; and as such he is a state counsel.

Justice Jaiteh stated that the law that governs legal practitioners in The Gambia is the Legal Practitioners Act 2016 and noted that the Second Schedule referring to in Section 21(2) of the Legal Practitioners Act 2016 provides that the following officers; Attorney General, Solicitor General, Director of Public Prosecutions, Registrar General, Registrar of Companies, Parliamentary Counsel and State Counsel are Law officers.

Justice Jaiteh stated that the Inspector General of Police, his or her officers are not Gazetted as state law officers; and Mr. Mballow being a police officer and in the employment of the Ministry of Interior does not occupy any of the offices designated in the Second Schedule of Section 21 (2) of the Legal Practitioners Act 2016 and he is therefore not a state law officer or a state counsel.

He explained that a legal practitioner working within a government department does not qualify the person to hold him or herself as a state counsel or a state law officer.

Justice Jaiteh indicated that there is no dispute as to whether Mr. Mballow is a legal practitioner in The Gambia, but the question that needs an answer is whether Mr. Mballow is qualified to represent the Inspector General of Police in the Superior Courts of The Gambia, essentially the High Court of The Gambia.

He noted that the law that governs proceedings for and against the State is the State Proceedings Act, Cap 8:03, Volume 3, Laws of The Gambia.

He asserted that the proceedings before the court is against the Inspector General of Police as the respondent and the proceedings should be instituted against the Attorney General.

Justice Ebrima Jaiteh underscored that evidence in the case file indicates that he received service of the documents on behalf of Inspector General of Police on the 25th day of April 2019 and that the proper step he should have taken was to forward the said documents to the Attorney General’s Chambers for representation, citing Section 13 (4) of the State Proceedings Act but not to appear in court.

Justice Jaiteh remarked that Mballow did not provide a practicing certificate before the court for the 2016 legal year as a legal practitioner to warrant him to enter appearance for the Inspector General of Police.

Justice Jaiteh said M.D. Mballow does not have the right of audience before the High Court in respect of the matter and cannot be heard.

Justice Jaiteh then ordered Mr. Mballow to transmit the notice of motion and all other processes served on him on behalf of the Inspector General of Police to the Attorney General’s Chambers for proper representation. 

Author: Bruce Asemota