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City of Banjul
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Trust betrayed: throwing the victims of sexual abuse under the bus

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What a situation!
Where the law enforcer becomes the law breaker
Where the fence starts eating up the very crops it has been erected to protect
Where an agency trusted with confidential information of its ‘clients’ reveals such information with wanton recklessness
Where trust is betrayed
Where victims are victimized and traumatized over and over again by the very system which is supposed to protect them
Where alleged perpetrators are given the space and the podium to cast aspersion on the character of their victims
The publication by the Standard newspaper of a police investigation report into alleged sexual offences reveal a serious, mind-boggling ineptitude, malfeasance and ‘corruption’ in our criminal justice system as regards offences of sexual nature. While we can fault the Standard for publishing such a report about a case which is not in court (it at least kept the identities of the victims secret), the fundamental question to ask is ‘who shared this report with the media when the case has not reached the courts?’ How did the report get out of the Police when it is supposed to be confidential?

While I do not want to be prejudicial, I think someone within the Police, the investigation team or the Child and Gender Protection Unit (or may be the Ministry of Justice if the report was shared with it) is complicit in this gross betrayal of public trust and confidence. Even if the Police are not to blame, what victim can trust this agency now with whatever evidence he or she wants to give them? What victim can be assured that the Police is an agency from which it can expect protection? What victim can be confident that the Police will not betray her or him, or throw him or her to the wolves? What victim would report a case of sexual offence against him or her to the Police? What victim will walk through that door, confident that the Police will judiciously investigate her accusation and ensure that justice is delivered?

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The report published by the Standard also revealed the prejudice of the investigators. An investigation is conducted to discover all the ‘facts’ relating to the complaint or accusation; to interview all potential witnesses and collect as much evidence as they can be; to aid the prosecutors indicate whether or not the case is admissible so they can provide legal opinion on the case. It is not the business of an investigator(s) to proffer legal opinion on a case. What we have read in that report are also legal opinions; in fact a conclusion that alleged perpetrator is innocent. Imagine a police investigation report impugning the characters of its victims?

But whoever is involved in this case, I urge you to read the Sexual Offences Act 2013 very carefully because you might find yourself in the tight grip of the law or may be just standing on a foundation of sand. Your position might collapse like a house of cards
1. There is no status of limitation as far as crimes of sexual nature are concerned. It does not matter if there is a time lapse between the occurrence of the alleged sexual act and the time it was reported. It does not matter if the alleged sexual act was committed in 2017 but only reported in 2019. Time or delay in reporting is inconsequential.

S.9: Evidence of period of delay
“In criminal proceedings at which an accused is charged with an offence of a sexual or indecent nature, the court shall not draw any inference only from the length of the delay between the commission of the sexual or indecent act and the laying of a complaint”
2. Anyone who publishes the identity of a complaint of a sexual act and thinks he or she can go scot free, take a deep breath and think twice. The long arms of the law will catch up with you.

S.16: Prohibition of publication of complainant’s identity
(3) A person shall not at any stage, from the time of the alleged commission of an offence until the accused has pleaded to a charge under thie Act, publish any information which might reveal the identity of the Complainant,
“commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand dalasis or imprisonment for two year or both the fine and imprisonment.”
3. If you think revealing the previous sexual life of a complainant of sexual act will be foolproof evidence to let you off the hook, think twice. Adducing such an evidence is discretion power for the Court and there are criteria to fulfil. But mark you very well S.18(3)
S. 18: Evidence of sexual contact or experience of complainant
(1) Evidence as to any previous sexual conduct or experience of a Complainant in criminal proceedings at which an accused person is charged with rape or an offence against morality shall not be adduced, and no question and no question regarding such sexual conduct or experience shall be put to the Complainant or any other witness in such proceedings.
(3) Evidence as to the sexual reputation of a complainant in criminal proceedings at which an accused is charged with rape or an offence against morality shall not be admissible in such proceedings.”
I say this to you:
– Sexual abuse is about power and abuse the power and trust (and power includes one’s position, authority, influence, status, wealth, age, etc)
– Sexual abuse is not a spontaneous action: it is always carefully planned
– A greater part of sexual abuse is grooming
– Sexual abuse does not always have to involve force; most of it involves threat, manipulation, blackmail, bribery, coercion, etc.
– Not all sexual abuse involve sex.
– Not all sexual abuse would show bloodstain, bruises or semen on the body. Sexual harassment, intrusive touching; frottage; voyeurism, etc would leave no physical mark on the body of the victim
– People are generally abused by people they trust or who have power and authority over them
– Mind the psychological effect of the abuse on the victim. Even if no physical evidence is or can be found, look for psychological harm. Physical and medical indicators must always be supported by forensic evidence
To the Police I say: people can forgive small errors but not the betrayal of their trust. They may never give you a second chance.
A law enforcer must never be a law breaker. Public confidence in the law can get dented. And instead of protecting victims, perpetrators can go scot free. Justice is then denied and impunity rules.

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