A US-based Gambian security analysis specialising on law enforcement and national security crisis, has urged the Inspector General of Police to create a special training unit to build the capacities of police prosecutors to avoid relying heavily on witnesses to prosecute major cases.
The Seattle based Modou Lamin Faye said he has observed with dismay police prosecutors losing court based on small technicalities that could be addressed easily through capacity building.
“There are many factors that should be considered before prosecutors decide to charge someone of a crime because that person’s life, dignity, and integrity is at stake, and we don’t want to send the wrong person to prison for a crime that they did not commit,” he said.
Faye said the prosecutor’s office should make sure that the arresting officers and detectives are well trained to be able to do a thorough investigation by effectively and impartially interviewing witnesses, interrogating suspects, obtaining video recorded confessions, gathering physical/digital evidence, preserving those evidence, and keeping a detail report throughout the investigation process before they even consider moving forward with a case to trial.
“If the police and investigators do their job correctly, prosecutors would be able to properly charge and successfully prosecute suspects or have a higher probability of getting a conviction. It is long overdue for investigators in the Gambia to understand that every crime is unique and that investigations to these crimes should also have a unique approach and are not to be investigated with personal feelings, emotions, religious, cultural, and political beliefs,” he added.
He said cases are being dismissed, dropped, and delayed because investigations are being rushed, not conducted properly, crime scenes are being contaminated and not processed properly, and prosecutors are heavily relying on witness testimonies to get a conviction, which also leads to charges not being filed properly.
“Witnesses could lie on the stand, change their minds, die, be biased, or move out of the country, therefore, it is not a wise idea to heavily rely on them to get a conviction. Physical/digital/DNA evidence, and recorded confessions legally obtained from a suspect (s), however, would be something that could be stored for decades especially when properly maintained,” he said.
Commenting on the recent acquittal of Sulayman Kijera who was charged for accessory to the murder of Kebba Secka, Faye argued: “Wrong charges were filed in this case that is why they could not have enough evidence to support the charges leading to the dismissal of the case.”
He said Sulayman Kijera should have been instead charged with accessory after the fact because there was “no credible evidence to show that Mr Kijera was part of the planning and killing of Kebba Secka”.
“An accessory to murder is basically when someone helps or assists another person before or after the commission of the murder to get rid of the body or other evidence. The person could also be charged with accessory to murder if they provide information of the victim’s whereabouts or a weapon that could be used to commit the murder. An accessory to murder-after-the-fact is when someone harbours, conceals, or aids a suspect (s) after they have committed a crime, and this includes but not limited to the person having the knowledge that the accused committed the crime, getting rid of evidence, and intents to help them avoid arrest or punishment,” he said.
Faye said if there is credible evidence to show that Kijera participated in helping Lamin Trawally escape punishment, then he should be arrested and charged with accessory-after-the-fact.