The Point (Banjul)

21 January 2013

Gambia: Justice Wowo Arraigned, Remanded

Former President of the Gambia Court of Appeal Justice Joseph Wowo was on Friday arraigned before Magistrate Dawda Jallow of the Banjul Magistrates' Court, charged with one count of giving false information to a public officer, and subsequently remanded in prison custody.

According to the particulars of offence, Justice Wowo on or about the 3rd of December 2012 in Banjul in Republic of The Gambia, wrote a letter to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) informing them that Mrs. Amie Bensouda conducted herself in a manner that was undermining the administration of the Gambian judiciary, by asking for pending cases data, an information he knew to be false at the time.

He pleaded not guilty as charged.

Defence counsel Uzuma Achigbue applied for his client to be granted bail pending the hearing of the case, arguing that the offence is a misdemeanor, which is bailable.

The accused, he said, will never jump bail, and will be available throughout the trial to answer to the charge preferred against him.

According to counsel Uzuma, his client has under his belt 22 years of service as a legal practitioner, and is still a principal judicial officer.

He added that the accused have reasonable and reliable sureties, and urged the court to grant him bail with a surety.

However, at this juncture the magistrate responded and told the defence counsel that he cannot dictate him (the magistrate) as to how he should grant bail to the accused person.

Counsel Uzuma further argued that the application, for adjournment by the prosecution to call witnesses, shows that investigations into the matter are already concluded, and his client will not interfere with any witness.

He urged the court to exercise its discretion in favour of the accused person by granting him bail.

In response, police prosecutor Sergeant Almameh Manga said the prosecution was opposed to bail on the grounds that investigations into the matter are still ongoing.

He said granting bail to the accused will be fatal to the case, since the investigations have to do with the Gambian judiciary.

Prosecutor Manga told the court that there is the likelihood for the accused to tamper with the investigations and influence witnesses as well, hence some of the potential witnesses are serving the judiciary and were directly answerable to the accused person.

He reminded the court that the defence counsel had said the accused person is a principal judicial officer, which he said is the main reason for opposing the bail application.

The accused, he added, was arrested on 17th January 2013 and was since then in police custody, and if released on bail will tamper with the investigation, which is in high gear.

"If the accused person is granted bail, he will jump bail," Manga submitted.

He said bail is at the discretion of the court, and prayed that such discretion be exercise in favour of the prosecution, by remanding the accused person in prison custody.

Further replying on points of law, counsel submitted that it is trite law that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, adding that there is a charge sheet before the court and the accused person no longer occupies his previous position to be able to tamper with witnesses.

The defence finally urged the court to exercise its discretion judicially and judiciously.

The trial magistrate ruled that bail is at the discretion of the court, adding he heard both applications, but the submission of the prosecutions cannot be ignored.

He then refused the application for bail, and remanded the accused person.

The case was adjourned till 28th January 2013 for hearing.

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