#Article (Archive)

Towards Justice for All

Apr 7, 2008, 9:29 AM

We share Hon Ebrima Jammeh's sentiments that cases should be quickened in the courts so that justice is not seen to be denied. We agree with him that protracted delay of cases hinders progress and "retards social cohesion". Citing the Babylon Crisis to drive home his point, the Independent National Assembly Member from Foni Bintang Constituency Hon Jammeh said that if the case had been handled with the speed it deserved, it would not have degenerated to the abominable state it is now.

But we think that castigating the judiciary is not the best way to deal with this perennial problem of backlog of cases in the courts. We think that rather than slam our magistrates and judges for adjourning cases brought before them; we should try to understand the constraints under which they do their job. Often when cases are mentioned for hearing in court, either a defence lawyer is not in court or a prosecution witness is unavoidably absent. And besides there is the need to adhere to the due process and procedures

And this raises a very serious problem facing the legal system as a whole in this country - shortage of manpower. There seems to be a shortage of lawyers to meet the ever- growing litigation needs of our people; there seems to be a shortage of magistrates to preside over cases, as a result, the few available ones are overburdened with cases. In spite of the recent appointment of three Gambians as Judges, the human requirements for the High Court are far from being met. This perhaps explains why some magistrates and judges are impatient to adjourn cases in which a party to the case is absent. And this perhaps explains why a lawyer is holding brief for a client in Bundung Magistrates' Court, while his other client in Banjul Magistrates' Court has to watch his or her case adjourned because the lawyer is not in court. Lawyers are human beings; they cannot split themselves into two to be in two different courts at the same time.

We hope that with the coming into being of the law faculty at the University of the Gambia, this problem will soon be taken care of.

We also believe that conditions of service at the bench should be made attractive so as to attract bright young Gambians. If our young lawyers feel that prospects for advancement in pay and positions are limited in the bench, it is natural that they will stick to private practice where the grass is apparently greener.

We suggest to Hon Ebrima Jammeh that as a lawmaker he should take time off to study the situation in the judiciary with a view to formulating a law to deal with the problems that are facing the bench in this country. A creative approach to issues is what we need in this country, not criticism for criticism's sake.