By Dawda Faye
State Counsel A.M. Yusuf on 10 April, 2019, made an application before Principal Magistrate Isatou Janneh-Njie of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court to withdraw the case against Yankuba Touray and Fatoumata Jahumpa-Ceesay, who were charged with conspiracy and interfering with witnesses. His application was granted by the presiding magistrate.
When the case was called, A.M. Yusuf rose and told the court that he was representing the state. Defence Counsel Sissoho represented Yankuba Touray while Lamin S. Camara announced his representation for Fatoumata Jahumpa-Ceesay.
A.M. Yusuf said that the case was adjourned for hearing. However, he stated that the state wished to withdraw the charges against the accused persons before the court. He subsequently applied under Section 68(1) of the CPC to withdraw the case, and urged the court to discharge the accused persons.
Defence Counsel Lamin S. Camara rose and said that they were objecting to the withdrawal of the case, noting that the accused persons should be acquitted. He cited section 66 of the CPC to support his argument.
He submitted that the first prosecution witness, Alagie Kanyi, has already testified, adding that the court has the discretion to acquit the accused persons in the interest of justice. He adduced further that the essence of the objection was to bring to the attention of the court that the withdrawal by the prosecutor against the accused persons did not need the discharge of the accused persons. He argued that it may and could lead to the acquittal of the accused having regard to the circumstances of the case.
He stated that the first prosecution witness testified before the court on two adjourned dates, noting that two adjournments were sought by the IGP. He disclosed that there was no reason for the withdrawal of the case. “It is not in the interest of justice to discharge the accused and subject them to be rearrested and charged before another court for the same offence. This will be a travesty of justice,” he told the court. He therefore urged the court to acquit the accused.
Defence Counsel Sissoho rose and said that he adopted the submission made by Counsel Camara. He stated that it was the responsibility of the court to acquit the accused, adding that no reason had been advanced to withdraw the charges. He said he found it strange.
He cited Section 24 of the CPC and argued that speedy trial was a fundamental right of the accused, and he urged the court to reject the application for the withdrawal of the case and to ask the prosecution to bring their witness.
State Counsel Yusuf stood up and stated that the objection by the defence lacked merit, noting that the court is guided by the law. He argued that the position of Section 68 of the CPC is clear, adding that they have a witness who has not finished his testimony, and they may have more witnesses to testify. “Section 68 does not state that the state should give reasons as to why the case is withdrawn. The issue of fair trial does not arise,” he argued.
He urged the court to grant his application to withdraw the case, stating further that the objection of the defence was baseless.
In her ruling, the presiding magistrate told the court that it would be an injustice to accept the objection. She said that the prosecution has already called their first witness who has testified, citing Section 68 of the CPC to back her ruling. She then overruled the objection and discharged the accused persons.