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In 3 Years Jotna members’ trial, defence fails to file an originating motion for bail

Feb 7, 2020, 12:11 PM | Article By: Dawda Faye

Justice Amina Saho-Ceesay of the High Court in Banjul yesterday ruled that the defence in the trial of the eight executive members of 3 Years Jotna Movement, have failed to file an originating motion when they applied for bail on behalf of their clients.

The members which include: Abdou Njie, Ebrima Kitim Jarju, Sheriffo Sonko, Hagi Sawaneh, Fanta Mballow, Karim Touray, Yankuba Darboe and Muctarr Ceesay, were slammed with three charges of unlawful assembly, rioting after proclamation and rioters demolishing structures.

In her ruling, the presiding judge said that the lead prosecutor, P. Gomez, made an application for adjournment on the grounds that they had just received the file the day before and needed to review the file in order to file the necessary processes.

This application, she went on, was the subject of an objection by Defence Counsel R. Mendy, who submitted that there was nothing before the court to warrant an adjournment of the case and as such, she saw no purpose of the adjournment except to continue denying the accused persons their liberties, and that until such time when the state can properly come before the court, the accused persons should be granted bail.

The high court argued that whereas the accused persons have the right to liberty pursuant to Section 19 of the Constitution subjects to certain restraints as established by law, being guided by the constitutional provision of the presumption of innocence.

She maintained that being aware of the fact that the court has unfettered discretion to grant bail using the time honoured principles and traditions that have guided the courts and considering that it is imperative that in determination of bail and its consequential matters, the court must be guided by factors laid down in a deluge of cases including but not limited to the following: the nature of the offence, the criminal  record of the accused persons, the likelihood of the accused persons jumping bail, the community ties and employment status of the accused persons and immigration status if any, the possibility of interfering  with the investigation of the alleged offence, the possibility of the accused committing another offence and the likelihood of keeping the peace.

“I direct that this matter be heard by way of a formal application. In so directing, I take into consideration that the application for bail before me was made orally. In my view, the defence, as a consequence, have not brought to the attention of the court the condition of the accused persons favourable to the granting of bail. An application for bail, like any other application before the court, deserves to be heard on the merits,” she told the court.

Justice Saho-Ceesay went on to say that the presumption of innocence alone in her view, does not make the grant of bail automatic since there is always the discretion to refuse the grant of same if the court is satisfied that there are substantial grounds for believing that the applicants for bail pending trial would abscond or interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice.

“I am also guided by the fact that when initiating an application for bail before the High Court, the applicant must come by way of originating motion or originating summons,” she added.

She subsequently adjourned the case to 11 February, 2020, for hearing of bail for the accused persons.