Thursday, October 6

THE POLICE AND THE CITIZENS IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY

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Section of 19 of the constitution states the relation between the police and the citizens. It states:

“(1) Every person shall have the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his or her liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law.

(2) Any person who is arrested or detained shall be informed as soon as is reasonably practicable and in any case within three hours, in a language that he or she understands, of the reasons for his or her arrest or detention and of his or her right to consult a legal practitioner.

(3) Any person who is arrested or detained –

(a) for the purpose of bringing him or her before a court in execution of the order of a court; or

(b) upon reasonable suspicion of his or her having committed, or being about to commit, a criminal offence under the law of The Gambia, and who is not released, shall be brought without undue delay before a court and, in any event, within seventy-two hours.

(4) Where any person is brought before a court in execution of the order of a court in any proceedings or upon suspicion of his or her having committed or being about to commit an offence, he or she shall not thereafter be further held in custody in connection with those proceedings or that offence except upon the order of a court.

(5) If any person arrested or detained as mentioned in subsection (3)(b) is not tried within a reasonable time, then without prejudice to any further proceedings which may be brought against him or her, he or she shall be released either unconditionally or upon reasonable conditions, including, in particular, such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he or she appears at a later date for trial or proceedings preliminary to trial.

(6) Any person who is unlawfully arrested or detained by any other person shall be entitled to compensation from that other person or from any other person or authority on whose behalf that other person was acting.

Section 19 is very clear and the training of the police should make the provision a golden rule of their conduct in relation to citizen.

First and foremost, no law enforcement personnel should engage in arbitrary arrest and detention as dictated by section 19(1) of the Constitution.

According to subsection (2) of the same section arrest should be based on reasonable suspicion of having committed or being about to commit an offence. Hence to ensure transparency, a law enforcement officer is required to inform the suspect within three hours of his or her right to consult a legal practitioner. In short, a legal practitioner is given the status of an interlocutor to ensure that the detention is not arbitrary but is done based on the weight of the evidence received by the law enforcement officer.

Subsection (3) of section 19 on states how to treat a suspect as someone who is innocent until proven guilty and prepare a case to be submitted to the court within 72 hours.

To prevent arbitrary detention subsection (3) adds that if there is no substantial evidence to take the person to court then the person should be released conditionally or unconditionally to report whenever required by the law enforcement personnel.

If the law enforcement officers carry out their duties without fear or favour, affection or ill will, no report will ever be given accusing the law enforcement officers of violation. This is how matters stand.

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