Laptop thief gets court mercy

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Justice Ebrima Jaiteh of High Court in Banjul last Wednesday, March 28, 2018 discharged one Kumba Secka after the court varied the sentence imposed on her by the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court.

The appellant, Kumba Secka and Jankey Ceesay were convicted and sentenced on three counts of conspiracy to commit felony, stealing and neglect to prevent felony contrary to the laws of The Gambia.

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the lower court, the appellants filed appeal and in arguing the appeal counsel for Kumba Secka, Lawyer L.S. Camara informed the court that the second appellant Jankeh Ceesay had served her prison term and was discharged from custody and he then applied to withdraw her appeal.

The application was not objected by the State and the application was struck out accordingly.

Lawyer L.S. Camara argued that the sentence and conviction of the appellant are manifestly excessive having regard to the circumstances of the case and the evidence adduced at the trial

The appellant counsel submitted that the appellant entered into an early guilty plea and did not waste the court’s time and resources in prosecuting the case.

Lawyer Camara further submitted that the said laptop that was stolen was recovered and returned to the complainant, he therefore urged the court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction and temper justice with mercy and vary the conviction and sentence as the appellant had already served 75% of her sentence.

In responding to the arguments and submission, Counsel K. Mbye for the State referred the court to Section 272 of the Criminal Procedure Code and pointed out that the appellant pleaded guilty and the sentence meted out to her was lenient and not excessive.

Counsel K. Mbye urged the court to dismiss the appeal as it is incompetent.

In delivering his judgment, the trial judge stated that after listening carefully to the arguments and submissions of counsel for the appellant and the respondent with great interest and after carefully perusing the Notice of Appeal, the Judgment of the lower court and the record of proceedings he believes gave rise to only one issue, which is “whether the sentence and conviction of the appellant was manifestly excessive and illegal”.

Justice Jaiteh referred the court to Section 272 of the Criminal Procedure Code Cap 11:01, Volume 3 Laws of The Gambia as cited by the State.

Justice Jaiteh reproduced Section 272 which states: “An appeal shall not be allowed in the case of an accused person who has pleaded guilty and has been convicted on such plea by a subordinate court, except as the extent or illegality of the sentence”.

Justice Jaiteh said in the instant case, the appellant pleaded guilty to the offence alleged by the prosecution at the lower court and thus entered into an early guilty plea.

Justice Jaiteh disclosed that he read the record of proceedings of the lower court and the appellant herein understood the charges leveled against her and accepted the facts narrated by the prosecution as the truth of the matter leading to her conviction and sentence.

Justice Jaiteh further disclosed he would disallow the appeal, noting that pursuant to the provision of section 272 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and in view of the fact that the appellant pleaded guilty and was convicted and sentenced in accordance with the law.

The trial judge pointed out that he did not see any illegality in the conviction and sentence of the appellant by the lower court and therefore held that the conviction was right in law.

Justice Jaiteh revealed that the appellant was convicted on three counts charge contrary to various sections of the criminal code and that count one is a charge of conspiracy contrary to Section 368 and it provides for seven (7) years imprisonment, whilst count two is the charge of stealing contrary to Section 252 and provides for five (5) years imprisonment and count three is the charge of neglect to prevent felony contrary to Section 367 and provides for five (5) years imprisonment.

Justice Jaiteh said the appellant was convicted and sentenced on count one to a fine of D10, 000.00 and in default to serve three months imprisonment.

On count two, the appellant was sentenced to three months imprisonment and was further sentenced to one and half-month imprisonment on counts three.

He averred that the sentences meted out to the appellant are not excessive at all and he therefore resolved the lone issue in favour of the State.

Justice Jaiteh declared that the appellant was properly convicted and sentenced in line with the law, noting that the modern trend in the administration of our criminal justice system requires that the court give the offender the punishment.

He stated that the sentence was proportionate to the offence taking into consideration such factors as offence seriousness, protection of the public and mitigating circumstances.

Justice Jaiteh remarked that the appellant Kumba Secka has been callous and reckless in the commission of the unlawful acts.

He stated that petty stealing is a cancer worm that is eating very deeply into the fabric in daily life of The Gambia and it has the potential to weaken the economic base of the State and must be discouraged totally.

Justice Jaiteh pointed out he observed the demeanor of the appellant in the dock and found her repentant and have learnt her lesson in the incident.

The appellate judge disclosed that after due consideration that she entered into an early guilty plea, he is minded to further temper justice with mercy and vary the sentence of the appellant, considering that she has already spent two-third of her sentence.

Justice Ebrima Jaiteh therefore ordered that the appellant, Kumba Secka be discharged forthwith from prison custody at Mile Two Central Prison.

Author: Bruce Asemota