By Lamin Cham & Aisha Tamba
In a dramatic landmark case, a school teacher has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for facilitating a school trip that led to the trafficking of his student, a girl, in Mauritania.
The trial which started in February 2020 before Justice A.T Osei lasted well over two years during which the court heard dramatic accounts of how the much -anticipated school trip ended in a disaster for one of the students.
The victim, now 21, said she was a student in Grade 11 and a member of the school’s drama troupe. She said in 2019, Mr Jatta informed her of a school trip to Ghana that he had arranged with the departure date of 31st July which he later brought forward to the 29 July 2019.
She testified that Mr Jatta asked her to join the trip and arranged for her to meet him at Barra to join other students for the trip but later informed her that the bus leaving for Ghana had left but he promised to get her another vehicle.
The victim said they were instead taken to Mauritania where they were kept as sex slaves and exploited for the pleasure of men who masked their faces each time, they came to have sex with them, making it impossible to identify them.
The victim told the court that in her case the men usually drugged her and each time she woke up she would discover that she had been sexually abused. She said after enduring the terrible routine of sexual exploitation for five months, she decided to risk her life by planning an escape route. She managed to escape from her captors one day as they were praying behind her room. “I scaled the wall in the room and sneaked through the window to escape,” she told the court.
She explained that her mother arranged for her uncle in Senegal to get her over to Dakar where she was taken to hospital, medically examined and found to be two and a half months pregnant.
The victim tendered the laboratory test results in evidence as an exhibit and showed the court the baby from the pregnancy who was nine months old. She told the court that she does not know the father of her child since her rapists were in mask and always get her drugged before forcing themselves on her.
The victim said her education too was halted because of what happened to her, lamenting that had she not suffered this experience she would probably be in college now.
In his plea of mitigation, the counsel for the accused pleaded to the court to deal with his client leniently since he is a first-time offender and a teacher, who is having a positive impact on the lives of many young children.
In rebuttal, the State lawyer argued that since the accused person is attracted to young persons, it would be dangerous to release him to society to unleash his criminal acts on other innocent young girls.
Passing judgment, Justice A.T Osei said the offense of human trafficking, particularly sex molestation of young girls, is becoming too rampant not only in The Gambia but also in the entire sub-continent and may get out of hand if the courts do not stand-up toe to toe with the culprits and deal with them ruthlessly.
He pointed out that the victim in this case is going to live with the agony of bringing up a baby she never bargained for all her life. “It is sad that she is not even working and does not know the father of her baby,” Justice Osei said, adding that her hopes of acquiring a good education and a brighter future have been blighted because of the accused person.
“Nevertheless, I have given a sympathetic thought to the plea of mitigation by the accused person’s lawyer and will give the minimum custodial sentence under the law. Accordingly, the accused person is hereby sentenced to an imprisonment of 15 years and a fine of D100,000 or in default a further prison term of forty months,” the judge concluded.
Counsel M.T Gomez and Duanda appeared for the state while Counsel T.B Jallow appeared for the accused.