Magistrate Jaiteh of the Brikama Magistrates’ Court recently convicted and sentenced one Jula Jallow, after he was found guilty of receiving a stolen bull.
In his judgment, the trial magistrate stated that the convict, Jula Jallow, was charged with one count of receiving stolen property.
The particulars of offence were that in the year 2014, at Sambouyan village in Kombo South District of the West Coast Region, he received from one Ebrima Baldeh a bull valued at D28, 000 knowing or having reason to believe that the same bull was stolen or unlawfully obtained.
He said the convict was arraigned before the court and pleaded not guilty.
The case of the prosecution was led through three witnesses, and in support one exhibit was tendered, he said, adding that the convict also testified as a lone witness in his defence, but tendered no exhibit.
The facts relied upon by the prosecution was sufficiently elicited from the testimonies of the witnesses, he went on.
“I have carefully listened to the proceedings and read the testimonies adduced in this trial where the prosecution alleged that the convict, Jula Jallow, received a stolen property.”
It is a cardinal principle in criminal cases that, the legal and evidential burden of proving every element of the offence beyond reasonable doubt lies on the prosecution, he continued.
Although, he added, the prosecution could do so by either direct or circumstantial evidence, the law requires that in either case the prosecution bears the legal burden of proving all the elements of the offence necessary to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
From the foregoing, the magistrate stated, it was clear that the prosecution must succeed on the strength of its own evidence and not allowed to rely on the weakness of the defence or lies told by the accused as the basis for a conviction.
“I, therefore, hold the strong view that to succeed, the prosecution must lead copious, cogent, compelling and unequivocal evidence which unshakably points to the accused as the man who committed the offence. The prosecution, therefore, has the unshifting burden of proving all the ingredients of the offence with which the accused has been charged.”
With regard to the first issue as to whether the convict received a bull from one Ebrima Baldeh, was the ingredient that constitutes the actus reas of receiving a stolen property, he stated.
The convict admitted that he received a bull from Ebrima Baldeh and all other prosecution witnesses stated that the convict received a bull from Ebrima Baldeh, he said.
“The issue of receiving a bull was not in contention and, consequently, I hold the prosecution has proved the first element of the offence with the certainty required by law.”
With regard to the second issue as to whether the convict had reason to believe that the said bull was stolen, constituted the mens rea of the offence alleged.
He said the convict, Jula Jallow, admitted under cross-examination that he did not obtain or request any certification of the bull when he purchased it, despite being in the business of cattle for more than 40 years.
The standard practice in buying and selling of livestock was that the parties ought to issue certificate of ownership, and the inference the court draws from the conduct of the convict was that he knew the bull was stolen and could not obtain a certificate, he said.
He said the true value of the bull was D28, 000 and the convict bought it for D12, 000 and the variance of prices demonstrated that there was a peculiar circumstance surrounding the bull, but the convict turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to those striking circumstances.
The 2nd and 3rd prosecution witnesses gave a vivid explanation as to how the bull was stolen and sold to the convict at a very cheap price of D12, 000, he stated.
The convict’s omission of requesting for a certificate of ownership was a deliberate act, and thus believed that the bull was stolen and he held that as a fact because when he was about to dispose of the bull, he demanded for a certificate of ownership and for these reasons, this court resolved the second issue in favour of the prosecution.
“I have had the opportunity to watch the convict closely when he was giving evidence. I must say his demeanor was not convincing at all. If the accused had no reason to believe that the bull he was buying was not stolen, he would have demanded for a certificate of ownership.”
The only explanation was that the accused knew that the bull was stolen and the price was cheap, he added.
“In the circumstances, I am, therefore, satisfied that the prosecution has sufficiently established the constituent elements of the offence as charged. I am further satisfied that the prosecution has proved their case beyond reasonable doubt and I, therefore, find Jula Jallow guilty as charged and convict him accordingly.”
“I have listened carefully to the plea of leniency and I have also considered the fact that the convict was a first-time offender, and also an elderly person,” the magistrate continued.
“Indeed, in life, we are faced with challenges. However, some are lucky enough to be given a second chance to make amends. I do not believe all crimes must be punished with custodial sentences. I am convinced that the convict has realized his mistake and is remorseful. I am satisfied that if given another chance, he will be a changed and better person. I shall hold all these factors as mitigating circumstances in favour of the convict.”
“Thus, if I am minded to temper justice with mercy, the convict should be taught a lesson nonetheless to deter others. It is for this reason that I shall sentence the convict, Jula Jallow, to a fine of D3,000 in default to sever three months in prison,” declared the magistrate.