Oct 21, 2013, 9:43 AM
Momodou Jarju alias Rongo and his father, Alhagie Lamin Jarju, were yesterday convicted by Magistrate E. Jaiteh of the Brikama Magistrates’ Court, for making false documents and uttering false documents.
The particulars of offence alleged in count one were that the accused persons, sometime in the year 2010 at Banjulinding in the West Coast, knowingly and falsely made a land ownership document dated 4 May 1997 and which was falsely received by the Ministry Local Government and Lands on 22 December 2010 knowing the same to be false.
The accused persons were alleged in count two that sometime in the year 2010 at Banjulnding in the West Coast Region, they falsely uttered a land ownership document dated 4 May 1997 and which was received by the Ministry of Local Government and Lands on 22 December 2010, knowing the same to be false.
Delivering the judgment, the trial magistrate stated that the accused persons were arraigned before the court and they pleaded not guilty to the offences alleged on 24 June 2011.
To discharge the burden of proof required in the case, the prosecution called seven witnesses and tendered exhibits and the accused person also testified with four witnesses, he said.
The facts relied upon by the prosecution was sufficiently elicited from the testimonies of the witnesses
“I have carefully listened to the proceedings and read the testimonies adduced in this trial,” he said.
It is the 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, the magistrate stated.
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, he went on, 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.
With regard to whether the accused persons made documents on 4 May 1997 is not in contention, the magistrate went on.
The 1st and 2nd accused persons testified in their evidence-in-chief and admitted under cross-examination that they made the document on 4 May 1997, an article of land ownership dated 4 May 1997 by Lamin Jarju and notarized by one Tom Oakes Bright, he said.
“Since the making of a document on 4 May 1997 is not in issue, I hereby hold that was accordingly established with the certainty required by law,” he stated.
With regard to whether the accused persons knowingly and falsely made land ownership document on 4 May 1997, an element of the alleged offence constitutes the mens rea of making false documents.
In their bid to establish the element of mens rea, the prosecutors called Tom Oakes Bright and in his evidence in chief and, under cross-examination, admitted that he did not notarize the document on 4 May 1997 as purported on the face of the document; rather the accused persons visited and begged him to backdate the notarization of the document to 4 May 1997, the magistrate noted.
From this piece of evidence, the date of notarization on the document was false and to corroborate this falsity, the accused persons stated and admitted in their evidence in chief and under cross-examination that the document was not notarized on 4 May 1997, instead in 2005.
“It is, therefore, apparent that the document purported to have been made on 4 May 1997 by the accused persons was in fact not made on 4 May 1997, and I hold that has a fact.”
The accused persons used the document whilst they knew and believed it was false with the intention of inducing the Ministry of Local Government and Lands to accept it as genuine, he said.
He said that with regard to the uttering of false document, the prosecution tendered a letter dated 4 May 1997 captioned “article of ownership”, adding that the letter and the document were regarded as false because Tom Oakes Bright did not notarize it on 4 May 1997.
“I am satisfied that the accused persons uttered a false land ownership document in 2010, which was falsely received by the Ministry of Local Government and Lands on 22 December 2010,” he said.
In passing the sentences, the trial magistrate said: “I have noted the seriousness of the offence committed and the particular circumstances of this case. There is no doubt that the people of Banjulnding are the direct victims of making and uttering false land documents.
“The making and uttering false documents is a serious mischief that has successfully undermined the reliability, credibility and integrity of documentation in West Africa.
“The making and uttering of false document is a cankerworm that has eaten deep in the fabric of the daily life of The Gambia and impinged on the reliability and certification of documents.
“The making and uttering of false documents has the potential to weaken the reputation of our institutions and sending the country into the doldrums of chaos.”
He, therefore, stated: “I send to the entire public; whether businessmen, land dealers, private entrepreneurs, joint ventures, companies, and individuals, that the making and uttering of false documents must be discouraged. The convicts Momodou Lamin Jarju (Rongo) and Alh Lamin Jarju were callous and reckless, and I am persuaded to impose the severest punishment attached to these offences.
“However, I will not do so because of the duration of this trial and being first-time offenders and the old age of the 2nd accused person. I find the convict being repentant and has learnt his lesson in this incident.”
The magistrate stated further: “It is for this reason that I shall sentence the convicts as follows:
“The 1st convict, Momodou Lamin Jarju (Rongo) is sentenced to one year in prison with hard labour in count one for making of false land ownership document.
“The 1st convict, Momodou Lamin Jarju (Rongo) is also sentenced to one year in prison with hard labour in count two, for uttering false land document.
“The 2nd convicted person, Alh Lamin Jarju is sentenced to one year in prison in count one and count two and the sentenced must be served at his home in Banjulnding due to his old age.
“The 2nd convict Alh. Lamin Jarju, whilst in prison at home, must not go out for any social activities except to visit the mosque, market, and hospital.
“If the 2nd convict is found out of his home without the exception herein stated for a period of one year, he must be arrested and sent to Mile Two Central prison to complete his prison term.”
All sentences should run concurrently, the magistrate stated.