Dec 19, 2008, 5:27 AM
The Principal Magistrate Dayoh M. Small-Dago of the Brikama Magistrates’ Court yesterday found Babylon Alkalo Lamin B. Jarju and two others ‘guilty’ of arson, willful damage to property, criminal trespass and conspiracy.
He however acquitted and discharged 11 other accused persons.
Delivering his judgment, the trial magistrate said the accused persons were on 19 February 2014, arraigned on an amended charge of four counts of arson, willful damage to property, criminal trespass and conspiracy to commit felony.
The accused persons were Lamin B. Jarju, Saikou Ceesay, Saikou Sulayman Drammeh, Burama Badjie, Ebrima Gassama, Modou Lamin Conteh, Alhajie Manneh, Sulayman Colley, Kebba Njie, Buba Gaye, Ebrima Bah, Sarjo Sohna, Modou Lamin Jallow and Modou Demba.
The magistrate said the charge sheet was read to them in the language they understood and they all denied it.
He added that the particulars of offence on count one stated that Lamin B. Jarju and 13 others on 20 February 2013, at Makumbaya village, Kombo North, conspired and set fire on 275 cashew trees valued at D75,000, being property of one Francis Mendy.
Count two stated that the accused persons on 20 February 2013, at Makumbaya village, Kombo North, jointly and intentionally damaged 275 cashew trees valued at D75,000, being the property of Francis Mendy without lawful permission.
Count three stated that the accused persons on 20 February 2013, at Makumbaya village, Kombo North, jointly entered the cashew farm of Francis Mendy with intent to intimidate, insult or annoy the said Francis Mendy.
Count four stated that the accused persons on 20 February 2013, at Makumbaya village, Kombo North, jointly conspired to commit felony.
The trial magistrate said in attempt to prove their case, the prosecution called six witnesses and tendered one exhibit which was the transfer of land document.
He said the accused testified on their own and called witnesses and tendered exhibits and were being represented by defence counsel BS Touray, whilst the prosecution was led by Chief Inspector Camara.
The magistrate said the prosecution closed its case and the defence counsel, BS Touray, applied to the court to make a locust visit to the affected site, which was granted and the court together with the accused persons, counsel, prosecutor and court staff visited the complainant’s farm on 17 April 2014.
The magistrate further stated that the counsel made a no-case-to-answer submission and the prosecution replied and the court overruled the application and ordered the accused to enter defence.
The accused persons testified and their evidence was in different circumstances to their arrest and similar in that they were dragged to the car but found doing different things during the arrest.
He said they also said they came to know each other at the trial and denied all the charges levied against them.
Magistrate Dayoh M. Small-Dago said after the court was set for address by counsel, the address would be put into consideration during judgment.
“I am mindful of the principle of law that to be able to prove a case the burdens of proving the case lie on the prosecution,” he said.
He also said every person charged with a criminal offence is presumed innocent until he or she is proven guilty or pleads guilty.
He said the prosecution must fail or succeed based on its evidence.
“I have looked at all the counts in which the accused persons are standing trial before the court and for the prosecution to secure a conviction, some elements must be determined,” he said.
He said that on count one, which was arson, the accused persons must have willfully and unlawfully set fire on standing trees whether indigenous or under cultivation.
For count two, willful damage to property, the accused persons must have willfully and unlawfully destroyed or damaged property belonging to the complainant.
For count three, criminal trespass, the accused persons must have unlawfully entered the complainant’s property, remained there, intimidated, insulted or annoyed any person therein.
For conspiracy, the prosecution must prove that the accused conspired to commit felony or anything amounting to felony.
Magistrate Dayoh said the prosecution should clear this to grant conviction, adding that counts one, two, three and four were not farfetched from each other so it was possible that if count one was established, the rest would be established.
He said where the identification of a person becomes an issue in court the court must warn itself of wrongful identification.
He said that in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, the 1st accused Lamin B. Jarju, 11th accused, Sarjo Sohna, and 12th accused, Momodou Lamin Jallow, were the ones seen at the scene where the cashew trees were cut and burnt down and it was clear they were the true identity that were present.
Based on that he would therefore acquit and discharge the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 13th accused persons, he stated.
The three accused persons, Lamin B. Jarju, Sarjo Sohna and Momodou Lamin Jallow were found guilty of the charges, he said.
In his plea of mitigation, defence counsel BS Touray asked the court to temper justice with mercy, saying the accused persons are family men and have spent over 1 year in prison.
He said that during inspection of the plot the amount of trees cut was 25.
The magistrate in passing sentence for the three convicted persons, said he would put into consideration that the accused were unable to meet the bail conditions but the crime they were accused of was a serious one and could not be compromised.
He therefore convicted and sentenced as follows: count one 14 months of mandatory jail term including 1 year they spent in remand.
Count two, they are to pay a fine of D15,000 each in default to serve 1 year with hard labour.
Count three, they are to pay a fine of D15,000 each in default to serve 1 year with hard labour.
Count four, D20,000 in default to serve 2 years with hard labour and the sentences should run consecutively.
However the convicts were also ordered to pay compensation of D60,000 in default to serve 3 years and the sentence should run consecutively.