Suffice to say that section 178 of the 1997 Constitution establishes The Gambia Police Force to protect lives and property, prevent and detect crime, apprehension and successful prosecution of offenders. Arrest is therefore legal so long it conforms with the tenets of law and due process.
The police can arrest or invite anyone on the grounds of reasonable suspicion. This is a mandate given to them by the Constitution and Police Act.
There is nothing wrong in that and I encourage them to continue to do bearing in mind the need to respect the rights of all suspects and detainees irrespective of the alleged offence.
I agree that our laws do not give a clear cut definition of what constitutes a reasonable suspicion but section 19(1) of the Constitution provides a leeway for the arresting officer to apply the reasonable test base on facts and circumstances available.
To address the above deficit, I invite you to read the case of “Dallison v Caffery (1965) 1QB 348 at 371 which is very instructive in this area.
What is required of the officer though is not to be disproportionate. The notion of proportionality although complex, calls for the Police officer’s good conscience in effecting arrest so long it conforms with the law without abuses. This is essential in understanding the rule on arrests especially by the Police.
Let me also add that Section 4 of The the Police Act Vol 4 Laws of The Gambia 2009 expounds in clear terms the role and powers of the GPF inter alia maintain law and order, protect life and property, prevent and detect crime, apprehend and prosecute offenders.
Clearly, the wisdom of this provision is drawn from section 178 of the Constitution of The Gambia which is similar both in body and in context with other jurisdictions.
Interestingly the matter bothering on arrests in some quarters is made to appear somehow contentious but in real sense, it ought not to be.
To put this in context, Police can get up tomorrow morning and put up barricades along Serekunda Banjul Highway, markets, name it and conduct search on every vehicle and people on the grounds of reasonable suspicion with a view to take custody of any relevant evidence used or to be used in the commission of a crime and they will still be acting within the fountains of the law.
The said item may be submitted in court once it is found to be relevant under section 3 of the Evidence Act of The Gambia 1994.
Let me also state that Section 13(1) of the CPC Cap 10:01 Vol 3 Laws of The Gambia 2009 empowers the Police Officer to conduct a search on the body of a suspect once there are reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect harbours or is in possession of instruments that are considered germane in the Prosecutions of the offence.
In summation, I find nothing wrong with the action(S) of any police officer(S) who has conducted himself or herself in accordance with the above circumstances.
There is therefore nothing to suggest that arrest of a person suspected to have committed an offence is in itself illegal or an aberration of the law.
Democracy is not one sided, it is a two sided relationship and this must be clearly understood.
In fact such actions are in line with democracy as an institution. Democracy entails that Police are allowed to do their job and citizens abstain from obstructing the Police in the due execution of their duties.
If your Police upon reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed and A, B and C have in one way or the other become suspects cannot effect arrest on them, then you might as well closed down all police stations and delete sections 178 and 4 of the Constitution and the Police Act respectively.
Almameh S Manga
Disclaimer: These are my independent thoughts and not writing on the basis of my affiliation with the Police Force