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Justice Wowo application for stay of proceedings dismissed

Dec 2, 2013, 9:46 AM | Article By: Malamin L.M. Conteh

The Special Criminal Court in Banjul had dismissed the motion filed by former Chief Justice Joseph Wowo, for stay of proceedings in this matter pending the hearing and determination of an interlocutory appeal filed against the order of the court.

Justice Wowo and Lamin A.M.S. Jobarteh were arraigned on a thirteen-count indictment which included abuse of office, conspiracy to defeat Justice and interference with witnesses, offences relating to Judicial proceeding, to giving false informing to a public officer.

Justice Nkea, in his ruling, stated that a motion dated 6 November 2013, was moved by the 1st accused /applicant in person.

“I have been urged to stay the proceedings in this matter pending the hearing and determination of an interlocutory appeal filed against the order of this court dated 28 October 2013,” he said.

The motion was supported by a 13-paragraph affidavit, to which the state respondent filed a 16-paragraph affidavit in opposition, he added.

The trial judge added that he received oral arguments for and against the grant of the prayers sought by the 1st accused, and upon thorough examination of the affidavit evidence and the law cited by both sides, the case for the grant of an order for stay in the 1st accused /applicant, believes that his interlocutory appeal raises substantial issues of law and records of proceeding of this court are the only records he could rely on in his defence since his lawyer did not attend proceedings on certain dates.

“The case against the grant of an order for stay is that the application is defective in form in that the manner in which the parties are listed thereon does not reflect the suit itself. They submitted that the issues raised in this application had been resolved by this court already,” said Justice Nkea.

“I will have to state here that the application before this court is essentially for an order for stay of proceedings pending the determination of the interlocutory appeal filed in this matter. I will therefore not waste my time in addressing the peripheral issues that have been raised by both sides,” he stated.

“In my ruling of the 28 October 2013, I had set forth the grounds upon which the prayers sought were refused. I will not go back to that issue,” he said.

He said it was the constitutional right of all to pursue an appeal, and the 1st accused could not be denied that right, but what was the essence here was not about his right to appeal but desire to have these proceedings stayed.

“I find it necessary to state here and now that an order for stay of proceedings is not granted as a matter of course, it is a matter that is up to judicial discretion and a party seeking a stay before the trial court must show that he will suffer irreparable injury if the stay is denied; that the other parties will not be substantially harmed and that public interest will be served by granting the stay,” the judge added.

“I do not see what irreparable injury the 1st accused will suffer if these proceedings are to proceed as he has been in the court throughout the trial taking notes at each session, and at times even interrupting the court to get the last answer. He is fully aware of the charges against him before this court, and the evidence led against him in court,” said the judge in his ruling.

He went further to state that apart from stating that his counsel was absent from court on certain dates, he failed to give reasons for such absence.

“Should the work of the court be clogged back because of an unjustified absence of counsel in court?” he asked. The answer is certainly not so. I would not allow the work of this court to be held back by the unscrupulous attitude of counsel,” he stated.

Now when a person was charged to court, it was the legitimate expectation of the general public for the issue to be resolved expeditiously, thus the Gambia Court of Appeal had held that where an application would occasion unnecessary delay would be condoned in its grant, it would invariably lead to the miscarriage of justice, he added.

“This cannot be countenanced by the court and same must be refused. I should note the attitude of the 1st accused since these proceeding commenced. He has sought at every given opportunity to stall these proceeding with frivolous application that has severally been dismissed as unmeritorious or as having been abandoned,” he further stated.

“The application is certainly dilatory in nature and in furtherance of that general design. I noted that it is in the interest of state party for this matter to be disposed expeditiously, and it is the duty of this court to fulfill that expectation,” he went on.

“I find the application lacking in merit and I dismiss same,” he said.

The case was adjourned to 3 December 2013, for defence.

However, the judge ordered an exceptional measure to allow the 1st accused access to the court file on Monday 2 December 2013, as from 11 am and that this would be under the supervision of the administrator of this court.