May 6, 2011, 12:03 PM
Principal Magistrate F.L. Drammeh of the Kanifing Magistrates' Court on 26th July 2010 said the court does not have jurisdiction to try an accused person charged under section 5 of the Economic Crime Decree No. 16 of 1994.
She stated that section 9 of the Decree as amended by Decree No.18 gives exclusive jurisdiction to the high court to try such offences.
She made these remarks in response to arguments by defence counsel Sheriff Tambedou, defending his client, one Momodou Alpha Jallow, who was charged with committing an economic crime.
The trial magistrate further indicated that legal notice No.3 does not detract in anyway from this situation.
"Section 8 of Decree No.16 stipulates procedures to follow in granting bail to an accused person, charge under section 5 of the said Decree. Therefore, pursuant to section 62 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, I revoke the bail of the accused person, pending the filing of appropriate charges in the appropriate forum," she declared.
Earlier, defence counsel Tambedou submitted that the court must look at the readiness of the prosecution to proceed with the case. He argued that the prosecution filed its case in court without due consideration as to whether they wanted to proceed or even if they want to proceed.
Defence counsel Tambedou said the sum of money involved is such as contemplated by section 5 of the Economic Crimes Decree. He urged the court not to revoke the bail of the accused person in view of the above, and the fact that the accused is the breadwinner of a large family.
Prosecuting officer, ASP Sanneh, in response said they it to the discretion of the court.
In her ruling, the trial magistrate told the court that having heard the personate interjection of the defence counsel, she was nonetheless not swayed by it.
She further stated that it is nowhere stated in section 9 of Decree No. 16 that jurisdiction will depend on the amount involved. She indicated that she has no jurisdiction to decide whether or not to transfer the file.
Magistrate Drammeh posited that what was at stake was the issue of jurisdiction.
At this juncture, she cited the Gambia Court of Appeal case of Sundiata Trading versus Standard Chartered Bank, and the Gambia Court of Appeal case of Momodou Corr and Awa Corr.
She said she has decided against exercising her discretion under section 66 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code in favour of the accused person, pursuant to the same section. She ordered the prosecuting officer to file fresh charges in the appropriate forum forthwith.