Jan 23, 2013, 10:42 AM
Former High Court judge Moses Richards, on 6th January 2011 at the Kanifing Magistrates' Court before Magistrate Tabally, asked state counsel Ebrima Sanneh to "go and learn the rules of law".
This development followed the submission made by Moses Richards, the defence counsel, who was mitigating on behalf of his client, one Lamin Ceesay, who pleaded guilty to stealing by clerk or servant, when the state counsel rose to say that he was objecting on points of law.
When the accused person, Lamin Ceesay, was earlier arraigned before Magistrate Tabally, he pleaded not guilty to the offence charged.
During the court proceedings of 6th January 2011, Moses Richards told the court that he had advised his client to change his mind, and to admit his criminal responsibility.
After the charge sheet was read again to the accused by the court clerk, the accused changed his plea of 'not guilty' to 'guilty'.
The state counsel, at this juncture, rose to narrate the facts to the court.
He said that the accused was a credit officer based at Kuntaur Jokadu for collection and disbursement of loans. He added that the accused, sometime in 2009, misappropriated D121,986.62.
He further adduced that this misappropriation of the said amount was uncovered, as a result of an internal audit by the employer of the accused.
"Upon discovery of the misappropriation of the funds, the employer of the accused, GAWFA, confronted the accused, and subsequently reported the matter to the police," the state counsel told the court .
He added that cautionary statement of the accused recorded by the police revealed a complete confession by the accused.
He urged the honourable court to impose an appropriate sentence on the accused for the offence committed.
At this juncture, Magistrate Tabally told the accused that he was convicted on his plea of guilt.
Moses Richards, the defence counsel, then rose and told the court, in mitigation, that the convict was an honourable man by admitting his criminal responsibility.
The state counsel then stood, and raised an objection. He said that he was objecting to the statement made by the defence counsel, that the convict was an honourable man for accepting his criminal responsibility. He argued that the matter had been before the court on several occasions, adding that the convict just changed his plea after some time.
Moses Richards rose again, and said that the state counsel had misconceived his submission, stating that the issue was not that the convict had changed his plea to guilt from not guilty.
It was a matter of at what point in the proceedings that the convict had decided to admit his criminal responsibility, the defence counsel added. "An accused person can change his plea on the day of judgment," he told the court.
Still mitigating on behalf of his client, Moses Richards said it was true that the case had come before the court several times, and that the convict maintained his 'not guilty' plea, but there was no substantial proceedings as well.
"Therefore, one cannot rule out that the change of plea by the convict shows that he is an honourable man," he stated.
He further argued that the convict did not have time to change his plea, until he had legal advice from his counsel. He added that the objection of the state counsel was baseless, and should be dismissed.
"A man who has admitted the charge and shows sufficient remorse deserves to be treated with leniency, by giving him another opportunity to go back and rehabilitate in society, to live a life free from a conviction on his head," Richards told the court.
At this juncture, the state counsel rose and told the court that he had some objections to make onpoints of law.
"What points of law are you talking about, when I am mitigating? This newcomer; you think that you know everything. You have a big book before you, and you don't know the rules of law. Go and learn," he declared.
Magistrate Tabally then stood down the case and retired into his chambers. He later came back into the courtroom. Moses Richards, who was standing out of the courtroom, came back and apologised to the magistrate for losing his temper.
He then continued his mitigation, stating that the experience of the convict always becomes an example to the rest of the society. He added that the experience also has a deterrent effect.
"The convict is a young man with a family, who is generous and always lends support to the society. He has a family and children going to school, and deserves leniency," he pleaded to the court.
Counsel craved the court's indulgence not to give the convict a custodial sentence, and implored on the court to impose a reasonable fine and give a reasonable time to the convict to pay.
Again, at the end of his mitigation, the state counsel rose to say something. Moses Richards shouted: "Don't utter a word. I maintain that you go and learn. Learn the rules of law. You have no locus standi. Sit down!" The state counsel exercised restraint, and sat down. The case was subsequently adjourned for sentence.