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Woman accused of stealing vanity box acquitted

Oct 6, 2011, 12:46 PM | Article By: Dawda Faye

Ida Kumba Drammeh, who was charged with stealing a vanity box belonging to Hon. Fatou Mbye, deputy Speaker of the National Assembly in Banjul, was yesterday acquitted and discharged by Magistrate Ngube of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court.

In his judgment, Magistrate Ngube told the court that the total value of the items alleged to have been stolen by the accused was D737, 500.

He said that the prosecution led evidence through witnesses, and tendered no exhibits in support of its case.

He added that the accused, on her part, elected to remain silent and did not lead any evidence, but rather filed an address through her lawyer.

The facts of the case were borne out in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, the magistrate went on.

He further stated that the accused had been charged with theft in a dwelling house punishable under the criminal code.

He said that for a conviction for any offence, the prosecution must prove that the accused person wrongfully took and carried away the personal property in the possession of Hon. Fatou Mbye, with intent to convert it or permanently deprive her of the property.

He added that the prosecution could establish these elements by direct and or circumstantial evidence, but in either case it must be beyond reasonable doubt.

He said he would proceed by first setting out what was not in contention.

It was not in dispute that the accused was in the premises of the complainant, on the day the vanity box containing the missing items was discovered to be missing.

It was also not disputed that about nine persons, including two babies, lived in the home of the complainant.

There was also no disputing that the accused and other members of the complainant’s household had unlimited access to the bedroom of the complainant.

There was no dispute that more than 100 people converge in the home of the complainant, at least once every month, for a meeting during which some of the members could be sent to the house to fetch a drink for a thirsty member.

Magistrate Ngube went on to say that there was, on the other hand, uncertainty as to the exact day on which the vanity box got missing, and who took it, adding that the prosecution alleged that the vanity box and its contents were taken by the accused person.

To discharge the burden of proving the allegation, Ngube continued, the prosecution called four witnesses, none of whom provided direct evidence showing that they personally witnessed the accused take the vanity box away.

The evidence all the prosecution witnesses gave could best be described as circumstantial, according to the magistrate.

“I am, however, not oblivious of the great need for the court to tread cautiously in applying circumstantial evidence for the conviction of an accused person for any offence with which she has been charged,” Magistrate Ngube declared.

He further stated that he agreed with the submission of the lawyer of the accused, Edrisa Sissoho, in his final address that, because at least seven other persons had unlimited access to the complainant’s bedroom, the argument that the accused stole the vanity box because she had access to the room was hollow.

He added that the complainant, Hon Fatou Mbye, herself conceded that Saffie Adams also had unlimited access to her bedroom, adding that the same should be true of all other inhabitants of that house.

“I hold, therefore, as a fact that all the seven adult inhabitants of the Mbye family had access to the complainant’s bedroom,” he declared.