Speedy trial is one of the fundamental rights and freedoms recognized by the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia. This makes the right sacrosanct which no one can negate irrespective of whatever crime you are charged with; you have the right to a speedy trial.
Unfortunately, the enforcement of this right remains a big challenge. People face long trials for months, or in fact, years. The court systems and process in The Gambia are tedious and of course, time-consuming. Magistrates and Judges use their hands to record in verbatim, what people say in court and whatever transpires therein.
There is a gazillion of people who are languishing at Mile II. Some of them lost track of their cases. This makes it possible for the Remand Wing to be overcrowded. Cases also take very long adjournments. In short, everything about The Gambia court system is slow.
Is it that we cannot implement this right to a speedy trial? Have we taken time to reason why this right is still a challenge? Have we also thought about the possible solutions? These are some of the questions that we should ask ourselves and the questions require genuine answers.
Now when you look at the court system around the world, they use a digital set of systems for recording court proceedings. Judges and Magistrates no longer use pen and paper to record proceedings – everything is performed abet – trials now fast track because of this. In The Gambia, this has not yet happened. How can we get to this level?
I think we can get to this level. All we need as a country is incessant. The Government must be ready to appreciate the digital revolution by heavily investing in the courts to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.
This would go a long way in enhancing and promoting the culture of speedy trial at the courts. It will minimize time consumption and ensure that cases proceed speedily and judgements are delivered timely.
I want to believe that the only way out is the CAT system of proceedings. I think this old system should be changed, replaced, and abandoned.
Once this system is altered, we can actively further rights and freedoms in The Constitution.
It’s my view that people will continue to suffer at the hands of the old-fashioned judicial system because the world has moved. This is the way out.