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City of Banjul
Friday, June 21, 2024

Citizens should have the option for jury trial/hearing

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By Modou Lamin Faye

Jury system, is a system where citizens are given the opportunity to be legally involved in criminal and civil proceedings by working under the instructions of a magistrate whose instructions is based on the guidelines of what the law states in each separate case to find facts in the evidence provided by the state and defendants to determine a guilty or not guilty verdict. Jurors are randomly picked through their Identification or voters’ card, and they also go through series of questions asked by the magistrate, prosecutors, and defense lawyers about the case to determine their competency or make sure that they imperially and fairly decide the facts with sound judgement and not to be emotionally, mentally, culturally, religiously, and psychologically bias.

For decades now, cases in The Gambia have been judged and executed by one magistrate, which led to many cases not being tried fairly and impartially because the magistrates would either be compromised by one of the parties, president, or allow his/her personal feelings, emotions, cultural/religious beliefs, and power cloud their judgment.  On the other hand when citizens are given the opportunity to have their cases heard by Magistrates and selected jurors of at least 5 or 14 people, there will be a higher probability that our rights and freedom  will be protected and cases will fairly and impartially be tried and judged because the magistrate will use the guidelines that the law applied in the case to instruct the jurors while the jurors use those guidelines to decides the facts of evidence provided by the state and defendants, which further have jurors look at the facts at different angle  and decide if the state has proven their case beyond the reasonable doubt or not.

While it is important for citizens to have the option to choose between a magistrate or jury hearing, countermeasures should also be put in place to make sure that magistrates and jurors are held accountable for when they let people use their power, position, influential, political, and financial status to compromise them to decide in their favor or compromise the case. Punishment for their actions should be swift and certain, which is designed to control the vast volume of offending behaviour and should be applied immediately and consistently. Jury trial/hearing will create checks and balance in our court rooms and minimize the possibility of cases or magistrates being compromised. Security measures should also be put in place to ensure the safety and protection of magistrates and jurors during trial especially when major cases are ongoing to avoid criminals contacting magistrates or jurors to intimidate them to compromise the case. Swift and certain punishment should be applied to people or criminals who intimidate magistrates and jurors to compromise a case. It is long overdue to modernise the system of every institution in The Gambia to get the respect that we deserved.

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