By Bruce Asemota
The Supreme Court of the Gambia has set aside the sentences of life imprisonment for rape and robbery with violence imposed on one Sara Camara.
The court now sliced it to 18 years for the offence of rape and another 18 for the offence of robbery with violence. They would run concurrently.
Delivering judgment, the Chief Justice, Hassan B. Jallow disclosed that the appellant, Sara Camara was on 26th August, 2009 charged before the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court on two counts of rape and robbery with violence but the case was transferred to the Special Criminal Court for trial.
Justice Jallow said the trial was presided over by Justice M. B. J. Richards which commenced on 12th November, 2009.
He asserted that the prosecution called 8 witnesses after the Appellant pleaded not guilty to all the charges and he testified as a lone witness in his defence.
He revealed that the second successive Judge, Justice Ikpala heard no witnesses, received no evidence and in effect took no steps in the case; and the third successive Judge in the trial, Justice Jobarteh convicted and sentenced the Appellant to life imprisonment on both counts.
Chief Justice Jallow said the Gambia Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision and dismissed his appeal.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal, he again appealed to the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Jallow emphasized that sentencing is a very important part of the criminal justice process as it may involve a deprivation of liberty as was done in this case or the imposition of some other penalty on a person who stands convicted of a criminal offence.
Chief Justice Jallow revealed that the Supreme Court found that the High Court (trial judge) failed to exercise his discretion properly in sentencing the Appellant and that if he had done so judicially he would not have imposed a sentence of imprisonment for life for any of the offences.
Chief Justice Jallow stated that the Supreme Court found and held that the two sentences of life imprisonment imposed by the trial court respectively for rape and for robbery with violence and confirmed by the Court of Appeal are both invalid.
Chief Justice Jallow said the Appellant was 22 years old at the time of the commission of the offence and has no previous conviction for any offence before the commission of the crime and had already served ten years in pretrial custody and in prison.