31 January 2013

Gambia: Legal Aid Counsel Requests Awa Sanyang's Case to Be Transferred to Children's Court

Ms Odumbeh, a senior Legal Aid defence counsel, representing Awa Sanyang, an accused person charged with a single count of murder, yesterday filed an oral application asking the Special Criminal Court judge, Justice Emmanuel Nkea to transfer the trial to the Children's Court for proper hearing.

Awa Sanyang was alleged to have sometime in September 2012, unlawfully caused the death of Isatou Bojang, her house mate in Brusubi, by hitting her with an iron and wooden baton. However, she denied the charge, and the director of Public Prosecution (DPP) SH Barkun called witnesses to support his case.

At the beginning of the trial, a voire dire (trial within a trial) was conducted for the purpose of determining the voluntariness of the second statement recorded from the accused by the investigating police officers. During the voire dire, the defence counsel alleged that the said statement was obtained through torture, force and duress, but the prosecution disputed this claim.

However, yesterday's application by the defence counsel was premised among others on grounds of under age and criminal trials relating to children, especially below the age bracket of 18in respect of the provisions the Children's Act. The application also came in the wake of the voire dire hearing meant to determine the voluntariness of the second cautionary statement obtained from the accused, Awa Sanyang.

The presiding judge, Justice Emmanuel Nkea adjourned the matter to February 5th 2013 for the Legal Aid counsel to supply the court with detailed information to back up her application about the age of the accused, Awa Sanyang. According to the defence counsel, the accused was born in the year 1996 and at the time of committing the offence, she was just 16 years, hence the need to have her tried at the Children's Court, in line with provisions of the said law.

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