By Amin Kef (Ranger)
Magistrate Hadiru Daboh has given Judgement in a matter that was before the Magistrate Court No 3 on Ross Road in Freetown, which he presided over, including 14 Accused Persons who were standing trial on two counts charges of Riotous Conduct, Contrary to Section 12 (a) of the Public Order Act, No. 46 of 1965 and Disorderly Behaviour Contrary to Section 12 (a) of the Public Order Act No. 46 of 1965.
The matter was brought before the court presided over by Magistrate Hadiru Daboh on the 5th day of September, 2022 and he gave judgment on the 11th day of October ,2022.
The fourteen (14) Accused Persons were standing trial for offences committed on the 10th day of August, 2022 against the Government and People of Sierra Leone.
In prosecuting the matter, the Prosecution brought five witnesses; PW 1 Abubakar Mohamed Kamara testified as one of the Arresting Officers attached at the Operations Division of Ross Road Police Station.
PW2 – Sumaila Ishmail Alie, PW3 at Mohamed Lamin Bangura, PW4 Tamba Syrus Marrah, and PW5 – Alfred Conteh all testified as Investigators in the matter.
All accused persons were defended by S. Campbell Esq, R.S Bangura and M .Gbongboto Esq.
In a whole, their Testimonies in Chief appeared to be credible and consistent with the facts that all the Accused Persons were arrested in a public place conducting themselves in a riotous and disorderly manner to the discomfort of peaceful Sierra Leoneans, with reckless songs against the Government.
He continued that the riots caused the lives of innocent Civilians and Law Enforcement Officers who were standing in the gap to control the disorderliness also stressing that it also caused wanton and malicious damage of Police Stations, Market Places, Private and Government vehicles plying the streets of Eastern Freetown.
According to the Magistrate, those actions, in context, could not be defined as freedom of speech, peaceful call for the reduction of high prices, and shortage of fuel but instead they undermined the democratic structures relentlessly built together with International Development Partners, who also suffered the said senseless insurgence on that day. He said those facts were uncontroverted by the numerous Cross Examinations by the Defence Lawyers.
In terms of the defence, the Magistrate stated that the Accused Persons at the close of the Prosecution’s Case, selected to rely on their Testimonies from the Police Station.
However, he said in those Testimonies, he confirmed that they all denied the allegations, and he was further informed that they were arrested on the 10th August, 2022, at the following Public Places; Kissy Road, Upgun, Kanikay, Cline Town, Ferry Junction, Fourah Bay Road, Moyiba, Race Cross, PWD, and Akram in a riotous and disorderly manner.
In interpreting the law, the Magistrate said in criminal cases, it is a fundamental rule of English Law that the Prosecution to bear the burden of proving the guilt of the Accused. He furthered that in almost all cases, this means proving all essential elements of the offence charged, ie. the Actusreus and mens rea.
Magistrate Daboh stated that such was emphasized in the landmarked decision in Woolmington Vs. DPP, 1935, where in holding that the direction of the Jury was improper, Lord Viscount Sankey LC said:
“Throughout the web of the English criminal law, one golden thread is always to be seen, that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner’s guilt …If, at the end of the whole of the case, there is a reasonable doubt the prosecution has not made out the case and the prisoner is entitled to an acquittal. No matter what the charge or where the trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner is part of the common law of England and no attempt to whittle it down can be entertained”.
He continued that the Law also imposes a higher standard of Proof on the prosecution with respect to the issues of guilt. Hence, the invariable rule is that the Prosecution must prove the guilt of the Accused beyond reasonable doubt. For this high standard requirement, Lord Denning J, in Miller Vs. Minister of Pensions (1947) said that the standard of Proof… “need not reach certainty, but it must carry a high degree of probability in favour of the Prosecution. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean beyond the shadow of a doubt”
Magistrate Hadiru Daboh stated that in the given circumstances, the Court is sure that the Prosecution has proven a case on a high probability against the Accused Persons maintaining that their Actions, on the 10th August, 2022, could be defined as cruel, reckless, barbaric, malicious, and a stark product of incitement against the Government.
He therefore found all the accused persons guilty on both Counts, and sentenced all of them to (18) months on each count, same to be served concurrently and a fine of Le 5,000 (Five Million Leones) each.
According to the Magistrate the court should be seen as a safe haven for both citizens and the Government.
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