Magistrate Gomez of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court on 16 June 2015 discharged and acquitted Mustapha Njie, a driver, who was charged with causing the death of Ya Binta Jarju, among other charges.
Mustapha Njie was paraded on 17 March 2015 before Magistrate Gomez and charged with four counts of failure to stop when required to stop, disobedience to lawful orders, rash or negligent act causing death, and unlicensed driving.
He pleaded guilty for failure to stop and unlicensed driving, but he pleaded not guilty to disobedience of lawful orders and rash or negligent act causing death.
Count one stated that the accused, Mustapha Njie, on 7 March 2015 at Manjai in the Kanifing Municipality and diverse places in The Gambia, was stopped at a security vehicles’ checkpoint by police officers in uniform but he refused to stop and drove away.
Count two stated that the accused on the same date and place was ordered to stop at a security vehicles’ checkpoint by police officers in uniform, which order he disobeyed.
Count three added that the accused on the same date and place drove his motor vehicle registration number BJL 7039G, in a rash or negligent manner, causing the death of one Binta Jarju.
Count four stated that the accused on the same date and place drove a motor vehicle registration number BJL 7039G, without a valid license.
Since the accused pleaded guilty on counts one and four, Magistrate Gomez told the court that based on the accused person’s plea of guilty on the said counts, and by agreeing that the facts read to him were true, they constituted the elements of the charge.
He subsequently convicted and sentenced the accused accordingly, and denied him bail.
Delivering his judgment on 16 June 2015, Magistrate Gomez started by summarising the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, namely Sulayman Bah (Ya Binta Jarju’s boyfriend), Fullo Mbye, Abdoulie Badjie, Landing Jarju, Baba Leigh Jallow and Muhammed Sowe.
The testimony of the accused person was also summarised by the magistrate.
Magistrate Gomez stated that the medical report indicated that the cause of death was head injury due to gunshots.
He told the court that the cause of death did not create a nexus with the act of the accused.
He stated that the prosecution could not establish that the rash or negligent driving posed any danger to the security officers, adding that there was no exchange of fire.
He, therefore, discharged and acquitted the accused on the count of rash or negligent act causing death.
On count two, which was disobedience to lawful order, he found the accused guilty.
Mitigating on behalf of the accused, Lawyer Edu Gomez told the court that there was no intention to dispute the negligent act.
He said the court was dealing with a simple man with a simple mind, adding that the accused was driving a vehicle, and at the time of doing so, he was not in possession of a driving license and was not wearing a seat belt.
He stated that the accused was confronted by law enforcement officers and was frightened, adding that this happened after the abortive coup.
He said there was tension and fear in the minds of people, adding that there were checkpoints everywhere.
He stated that the accused throughout this period remained in custody at the remand wing, and the accused was remorseful.
He added that the objective of criminal punishment is to reform people, adding that the accused had realised the gravity of his misdeed, and there would be no repetition of it.
He said he was a first-time offender and humbly and sincerely urged the magistrate to be merciful and lenient when the court considered any punishment.
He urged the court not to impose a custodial sentence on the accused, but a fine which may not be excessive.
He finally urged the court to temper justice with mercy.
ASP Mballow rose and said he had no problem with the mitigation plea made by the defence counsel.
He said they were going to appeal against the acquittal of the accused on the count of rash or negligent act causing death.
He said the accused should be released on bail.
Sentencing the accused on the count of disobedience to lawful orders, Magistrate Gomez gave him a suspended sentence of six-month imprisonment, and that if the accused commits another offence within six months, he would first serve the six-months imprisonment.
He granted him bail of D50, 000 with two Gambian sureties who must swear to an affidavit of means and deposit their ID cards.