By Yankuba Jallow
High court judge, Justice Ebrima Jaiteh has increased the sentence imposed on one Dodou Camara, who was convicted of vehicle theft by a trial magistrate in Kanifing.
Magistrate Sainey Joof sentenced Camara to 2 year jail term on the 17th October 2019, but Justice Jaiteh, who presided over the appeal case, increased his sentence to a 10 year jail term.
Delivering his judgment on the 12th July 2021 in a crowded court, Justice Jaiteh said the appeal was against the decision of the trial court in Kanifing. Camara was dissatisfied with the sentence contending that the 2-year mandatory jail term was excessive.
Camara submitted that the stolen vehicle was recovered and returned to the complainant -owner, adding he was a first-time offender. He urged the court to temper justice with mercy and reduced the sentence imposed on him to the time he already served in prison custody.
Counsel for the State, Naffisatou Bangura did not object to the plea of leniency as she left the matter in the hands of the court to decided.
On whether the sentence imposed on him was excessive, Justice Jaiteh said section 255A of the Criminal Code provides “if thing stolen is a vehicle, the offender is liable to imprisonment for a term of ten years.“
He said what this provision of the penal code provides is that when an accused is convicted of stealing a vehicle, he or she could be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. In the instance case, Dodou Camara was sentenced to 2 years jail term by the trial magistrate.
“In my view, the appellant was sentenced according to law and therefore, not excessive,” Justice Jaiteh said.
He added: “In my humble view, I have not seen any illegality in the sentence of the Appellant [Dodou Camara] by the lower court [Kanifing Magistrate’s Court] and I do not believe the sentence was wrong in law.”
He held that Camara was properly sentenced in line with the law. However, he said the modern trend in the administration of criminal justice system requires that the court gives the offender [convict]the punishment, which is proportionate to the offence. The Judge said the offence upon which Camara was convicted was a serious one, adding he was reckless and callous in the commission of the offence.
“I must state that stealing is a cancer worm that is eating very deeply in the fabric of the daily life of The Gambia and it has the potential to weaken the economic base of the State and must be discouraged totally,” the Judge stated.
He said he observed the demeanour of Mr Camara in the dock who he said is repentant and has learnt his lesson in the incident.
“I hereby invoke the inherent powers of this honourable court and increase the sentence of the Appellant from 2 to 10 years and the unspent 8 years is hereby suspended,” the Judge said.
He warned that if Camara commits any offence known to law within the period of the unspent 8 years, he should be arrested and committed to prison custody and he would serve the suspended 8 years forthwith.
He ordered for Camara to be discharged forthwith from prison custody at Mile Two Central Prisons.