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Driver acquitted for ‘dangerous parking’

Oct 9, 2015, 10:37 AM | Article By: Yai Dibba

Magistrate E. Jaiteh of the Brikama Magistrates’ Court recently acquitted and discharged one Musa Barrow, who was accused of leaving a motor vehicle in a dangerous position.

Delivering his ruling on the no-case submission, the presiding magistrate told the court that the accused, Musa Barrow, was charged on a single-count of leaving a motor vehicle in a dangerous position.

The particulars of offence were that on 12 August 2015, at Brikama GALP Petrol Station in Kombo Central District of the West Coast Region, between the hours of 16:00 and 17:00, he drove a motor vehicle with registration number BJL 7473-K and parked it at a dangerous position.

He said the accused person was arraigned before the court on 10 September 2015 and he pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Challenged by the plea of not guilty, the prosecution called one witness and tendered no exhibit, he said, adding that the facts relied upon by the prosecution were sufficiently elicited from the testimony of the lone witness.

Upon the close of the prosecution’s case, the accused, through his counsel, raised a no-case submission and addressed the court orally and the prosecution replied to the no-case submission and there was no reply on points of law.

The defence counsel, in his oral address, submitted that the accused had no case to answer and made reference to section 166 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the magistrate said.

He said the defence counsel referred the court to section 65(1) of the Motor Traffic Act and pointed out that the accused must have left the vehicle in a dangerous position, condition, or circumstance and the vehicle must pose a danger, unnecessary obstruction, and inconvenience to other persons using the road.

He said the defence counsel also referred the court to the testimony of PW1 and stated that his evidence did not show at all where the vehicle was left, and there was no evidence that GALP Petrol Station complained about the position of the accused person’s vehicle position.

Defence counsel further submitted that the legal and evidential burden was on the prosecution to prove the element of the offence beyond reasonable doubt.

In reply, Sergeant O. Touray for the prosecution, submitted that the accused was standing trial for parking a motor vehicle at a dangerous position contrary to the Motor Traffic Act.

The prosecutor argued that the evidence of PW1 had not been discredited, and what was expected of the prosecution at this stage was not to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, but to establish a prima facie case, which would allow the accused to enter his defence.

The prosecutor further submitted that the prosecution was able to establish a prima facie case against the accused person, and that the court should ignore the defence counsel’s submission and order the accused to enter his defence, so that his side of the story could be heard in the administration of justice.

“I have carefully read through all the testimony adduced by the lone prosecution witness in the case file,” the magistrate continued.

The position of the law as it relates to a no-case submission in this jurisdiction is governed by Section 166 of the Criminal Procedure Code, he said.

“In any event, a submission of no-case to answer is also a common law procedure, which may be applicable to some cases,” he added.

In the instance case, he stated, the prosecution, having concluded their evidence and close their case, the defence argued that the prosecution had not provided sufficient evidence to sustain the charges or sufficient evidence that would safely lead to the conviction of the accused person; hence their submission of no-case to answer.

It was on this basis that the ruling was being read, he said.

“The question I have to determine is whether the evidence produced by the prosecution has been discredited in cross-examination or whether the evidence adduced is so manifestly unreliable that it would not be safe to convict,” he went on.

He said the lone witness did not provide any pictures or a sketch plan as to how the accused left his vehicle in a dangerous position, and this failure raised a shadow of doubt in his mind.

The testimony of PW1 had not been corroborated as well, he noted, adding that the parking of a vehicle at a petrol station was not an offence and the management of the said petrol station never complained of vehicles parking in a dangerous condition.

“I am convinced that the evidence led by the prosecution does not sufficiently identify and point to the accused of leaving his vehicle in a dangerous position,” the magistrate said.

The evidence adduced by the prosecution had been so discredited under cross-examination, and the entire testimony of PW1 was manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal could convict on it alone, he further stated.

It was trite law that once the prosecution failed to establish the actus reus of an offence such as the instant case, and where there are doubts in the mind of the court as to whether a prima facie case has been established, such doubts should be resolved in favour of the accused.

“Consequently, the defence counsel’s submission of no-case to answer on this charge is accepted and succeeds. Therefore, the offence charged is dismissed. The accused, Musa Barrow, is hereby acquitted and discharged accordingly,” declared the magistrate.