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High Court Sheriff ends testimony, in Moses Richards' case

Mar 1, 2011, 12:11 PM | Article By: Bakary Samateh

Joseph Agbor Effim, the Sheriff at the High Court in Banjul, yesterday ended his testimony under cross-examination in the criminal trial of Moses Richards at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court before the acting-principal magistrate Alagba.

Moses Richards is being tried on charges of giving false information and sedition, which he has denied.

The Sheriff told the court that, before being appointed as Sheriff of the High Court, he was the acting-Principal Magistrate at the Brikama Magistrates' Court, and he is a Cameroonian national.

He added that prior to his appointment as acting-principal magistrate, he worked with the "NJILLY BUEA" in the southern part of Cameroon, and that he qualified as a lawyer in Cameroon, and went through law school in Sierra Leone.

He said he is a qualified lawyer, as far as the common law is concerned, but has never admitted to practice law in The Gambia, and that he has never been a legal practitioner before being appointed as a magistrate.

Asked by defence counsel Surahata Janneh whether he understands the rule of law, the state counsel MB Agiah stood up and raised an objection. Defence counsel however told the court that his question could not be expunged from the evidence, but could only be disallowed by the court.

When asked by the defence counsel to explain what the rule of law means, the witness said he is not an expert in the rule of law.

Counsel Janneh then said, "In fact, you don’t know anything about the rule of law", to which the first prosecution witness said that he "knows something about the rule of law, though not everything."

The defence counsel further asked the witness whether he was aware that in The Gambia, no one is above the law. At that juncture the state counsel raised an objection, on the grounds that the question the defence counsel asked was personal opinion, and the witness could not answer that question.

Asked whether he was aware that the accused person was acting under the instructions of his client, Lamin Colly, a resident of Jabang village in the West Coast Region, in referring to the Office of the President, and not His Excellency the President, the witness responded: "My understanding was the same thing."

The Sheriff testified that at the time of writing exhibit A5, he was the Sheriff of the High Court and that he copied the document to the Chief Justice.

Asked whether he was under the supervision of the Chief Justice, in reply he said not only under his supervision but as head of the Judiciary; that this was why he copied exhibit A5 to the Chief Justice.

As to why he copied exhibit A5 to the Chief Justice, but did not copy exhibit A4 to the Chief Justice, PW1 said both exhibits A4 and A5 are important.

Told that there was no factual basis in exhibit A4, that was why he did not copy to the Chief Justice, the witness said that was not correct. "I have copied to the Chief Justice."

The Sheriff added that he wrote exhibit A5 nine days later, because "I was making my findings on the issues raised in the letter."

He maintained that he found only exhibit A1 in the file, and that the only reason why the accused person wrote this letter was purposely to stop the execution of the judgment.

He added that exhibit A3 had been copied to the Minister of Justice, the Director General  of National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Department of Physical Planning.

Defence counsel put it to him that the accused person did not mention any police investigation. However, in reply PW1 said, "Yes,  he mentioned it in his letter."

Defence counsel further put it to him that the accused person was precisely instructed by his client, and that the accused person has never given any false information to anybody, but was acting under the instructions of his client, as a mouthpiece of his client. In reply, the witness said, "I don't know."

When further asked by defence counsel why they did not execute the judgment since 2007, the witness in reply told the court that this was because of the former Chief Justice, who stopped the bailiff from executing the judgment.

PW1 added that, "This was whyI wrote to the Inspector General of Police requesting for police escort to carry out the execution exercise, because it involved so many people, that is why we needed the police escort."

He went on: "When I was summoned by the Chief Justice in his office, I found lawyer Ousainou Darboe claiming that I refused to execute his client's judgment because they are an opposition party."

"I told the Chief Justice that was never true, because I wrote to the Inspector General of Police requesting for police escort, and that I did not give any letter to lawyer Ousainou Darboe." Meanwhile, the objection raised by the defence to the charges was overruled.

Moses Richards was represented by the Gambia Bar Association (GBA) led by senior lawyers Surahata Janneh and Antouman Gaye.

The case was adjourned till 7th March 2011.