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Driver charged with causing death of Ya Binta Jarju

Mar 18, 2015, 10:29 AM | Article By: Dawda Faye

Mustapha Njie, a driver, was on 17 March 2015 paraded before Magistrate Gomez of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court and charged with causing the death of Binta Jarju, among other charges.

He was 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.

Count one stated that the accused, Mustapha Njie, on March 2015 at Manjai in the Kanifing Municipality and diverse places in The Gambia, was stopped at a security vehicle 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 vehicle 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 licence.

The accused, Mustapha Njie, pleaded guilty on counts one and four and denied counts two and three.

Police prosecutor ASP Mballow told the court that the accused was hired by one Sulayman Bah on 7 March 2015 around 9 pm.

He said the accused was at the time driving a motor vehicle, with registration number BJL 7039G, a commercial Mercedes Benz vehicle.

Mballow added that on board the vehicle was one Ya Binta Jarju.

The accused person took the Manjai highway route, getting to a checkpoint manned by police officers close to the Elton Petrol Station, where the accused was asked to stop by the security officers with a signboard mounted.

The accused refused to stop, and Sulayman Bah and Ya Binta Jarju cautioned the driver, and told him that what he was doing was not correct.

The prosecutor further told the court that the driver sped off and proceeded to Manjai, when he was not with a driving licence, and he was pursued by the officers on duty.

At the police station at Kairaba, where the accused was taken after he was arrested, it was confirmed that he had no driving licence and confessed that he failed to stop at the checkpoint.

The accused was cautioned and charged with the offence, the prosecutor added.

At this juncture, the accused was asked by the magistrate whether what the prosecutor narrated was what happened, and he answered in the positive.

Magistrate Gomez then told the court that based on the accused person’s plea of guilty on counts one and four, and by agreeing that the facts read to him were true, they constituted the elements of the charge.

He therefore found the accused guilty on counts one and four.

In his plea of mitigation, defence lawyer Edu Gomez, on behalf of the accused, said he wanted the court to take into consideration that the accused is a young person, adding that he believed the accused was a first-time offender.

He further stated that the accused manifested dignity, and that first-time offenders should not be sent to prison, adding that he was humbly urging the court to impose a fine and not a custodial sentence.

ASP Mballow said sentencing the accused would deter would-be offenders from committing a similar offence.

Opposing bail, ASP Mballow further told the court that the accused was convicted and was yet to be sentenced by the court, adding that in view of the circumstances of counts two and three, he believed that if the accused was granted bail he would abscond.

Lawyer Gomez said he wished to guide the court that a rash and negligent act causing death is a serious offence, but it is not an offence which carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.

He argued that it is a bailable offence.

He applied for bail for the accused, stating that under Section 99 of the criminal procedure code, a person is entitled to bail; Gomez also quoted Section 19 (5) of the constitution.

He argued that the accused had been in custody in excess of the 72 hours prescribed by the law.

ASP Mballow said section 19 (5) of the constitution presupposes there is a presumption of right to bail, adding that section 99 does not state that bail is a right, but there is a presumption of right to bail.

He further stated that granting bail to the accused would defeat the purpose of bail, adding that there are other counts pending against the accused.

He finally urged the court to refuse the accused bail, and that the prosecution would undertake to proceed on a daily basis.

Magistrate Gomez, in his ruling, said the accused has two other counts, and would not grant the application for bail.

The case was adjourned to 19 March 2015, for hearing and sentencing.