Mar 11, 2011, 12:42 PM
The trial of Carnegie Minerals, an Australian mining company that has since been debarred from operating in The Gambia, and its General Manager, Andrew Charles Northfield, continued at the Banjul High Court. The state filed notice for a stay of proceedings at the latest hearing on the case. Carnegie Mineral company and the General Manager are being tried on three counts of economic crimes and one count of theft.
The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Emmanuel Fagbenle, on Wednesday told the Banjul High Court before Justice Naceesay Salla-Wadda that after the last sitting, the state filed a notice of appeal against the ruling of the court and also filed a notice of stay of proceedings to enable the Court of Appeal resolve the appeal. Moving the motion, the DPP stated that the application for a stay of proceedings became necessary because the accused persons before the court were jointly charged and therefore inseparably accountable. He said that the 2nd accused, Andrew Charles Northfield, is the soul and spirit of the 1st accused who carried the will of the 1st accused, adding that the trial of the 2nd accused could not proceed in the absence of the 1st accused.
The DPP further submitted that the issue that arose in the notice of appeal as filed is whether the respondent could be heard on ex parte motion before the court or whether the ex parte motion was properly struck out. He added that the court, in an earlier ruling in the same case, decided that it had no jurisdiction to review its own decision and that the only opportunity available to the applicants was to appeal. He said the 2nd accused was the General Manager of the 1st accused at the time of the alleged act and that the 2nd accused acted on behalf of the 1st accused. The DPP stated further that the trial of the 2nd accused without the 1st accused in which they are jointly charged would cause more diverse effect to the prosecution than the accused. He said the letter of employment gives the 2nd accused absolute control over the mining activities of the 1st accused in The Gambia, and that the letter of termination dated 29th February 2008 further supported the prosecution's application. He finally urged the court to grant the application pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal.
The defence counsel, Mene, said in reply that the application before the court is irrelevant, charging that it is deliberately intended to divert the attention of the court and confuse the whole issue. He said the 2nd accused is a mere employee of the 1st accused for a limited period of time as he was only three months old in the job. He argued that the people who employed the 2nd accused are the ones responsible. Mene then recollected that the ruling of the court was that the application for substituted service had to be on notice and not that the respondent had to be heard on ex parte motion. He added that the argument that the 2nd accused is the soul and the spirit of the 1st accused is irrelevant, noting that the issue raised by the prosecution to be considered by the court is off the record. He said the application was only calculated to delay the speedy disposal of the case, adding that a stay of proceedings would cause the respondent more hardship than anyone else.
He said the more the matter is delayed, the more it violates the 2nd accused's fundamental right to a fair hearing. He finally urged the court to dismiss the application.
It could be recalled that the court had earlier on struck out the ex parte motion filed by the prosecution which decision of the court of appeal the state is now appealing against.
The case was at that juncture adjourned to 20th May.