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Ex-Chief Justice Wowo’s application dismissed

Oct 29, 2013, 9:44 AM | Article By: Malamin L.M. Conteh

The Special Criminal Court in Banjul yesterday dismissed the application earlier made by former Chief Justice Joseph Wowo, for the court to avail him with a copy of the records of proceedings so far taken in the case.

Justice Wowo and former Minister of Justice Lamin A.M.S. Jobarteh are being tried on a thirteen-count indictment which included abuse of office, conspiracy to defeat Justiceand interference with witnesses, offences relating to Judicial proceeding, to giving false informing to a public officer, which both denied.

Delivering the ruling, Justice Nkea stated that when the matter last came up on Wednesday 23 October, the 1st accused person, Justice Joseph Wowo, made an oral application, urging the court to avail him with a copy of the records of proceedings so far taken in this matter.

“I have carefully read through the length and breadth of the 1997 constitution and the Rules of Court, and it seems to me that the gamut of fair trial rights of an accused person during the pendency of a case is provided for under section 24 of the same constitution.

“And if I agree that an accused must be given adequate time and facilities to conduct his defence, I also affirm that this right must be interpreted and understood within in the ambit of section 24 of the constitution to mean that the accused must be given adequate notice of the list of witnesses, list of exhibits and summary of evidence to be used against him in the trial,” Justice Nkea said.

He said “apart from section 24(4) of the constitution which gives an accused the right to records of proceeding within thirty days upon the conclusion of the proceedings, there was nothing in our laws and the Rules of Court suggesting that an accused or any other party for that matter must be given a copy of the records of proceedings in a matter that was sub judice, and that was certainly not a common law practice as well.

“The practice is that, where counsel is absent from any part of the trial for genuine reasons, the court may in the interest of justice allow counsel to read through the records of proceedings with a view to abreast himself with those proceedings.

“That aside, I do not know of any other rule or practice suggesting that a litigant who has been present throughout the trial and taking notes of the proceedings, can still apply and be given a copy of the records of proceedings while the matter is still pending before the court,” said Justice Nkea in his ruling.

He added that since the 1st accused was always in court and taking notes of the proceedings, he did not know what purpose the request seeks to serve.

“On the totality of the foregoing, therefore, I hold that this application lacks merit and I dismiss same,” he said.

Meanwhile, defence counsel B.S. Touray continued cross-examining the prosecution witness six (PW6), Andrew Van Sapeklaabergne, a Dutch businessman, who told the court that it was correct that no one had asked for a bribe at the meeting.

He also told the court that he could not remember whether the Attorney General was the 14th defendant in his case at Brikama.

The case continues on 30 October 2013.