Sierra Leone Telegraph court reporter: 09 June 2020:
As the case for the State came to a close yesterday, Adrian Fisher, who has commandeered the role of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and leading the prosecution in the Palo Conteh treason trial, informed the court that after calling 13 witnesses in total, they will no longer to call any more witnesses. (Photo above: Joseph F Kamara).
He said that they intend to dispense with the witnesses at the back of the indictment who have not already testified. He further informed the Court that the prosecution is closing the case for the state.
Lawyers defending Alfred Palo Conteh wasted no time in taking objection to this elementary procedural irregularity. Joseph F. Kamara (JFK) – (Photo) said: “My lord the State is seeking to close its case without calling four of the witnesses listed at the back of the indictment. My Lord the Prosecution has conduct of its case and I will not even attempt to tell them how to proceed but the reality is procedural regularity forms the bedrock of any criminal trial.
“If the state wants to dispense with witnesses already listed at the back of the indictment without calling them to testify, it must first call them to the witness box, informs the court they do not wish to lead them in evidence and tender them to the Court.
“If the Defense doesn’t wish to cross examine them, they will be discharged by the Court. But it is wrong procedurally my Lord,” JFK Continues, “for the prosecution to just come and make an application to dispense with witnesses without take the necessary procedural steps.”
The judge ruled in favour of the Defense and stood down the matter for 1 hour 30 minutes to have the prosecution gather its witnesses and tender them to the court as procedure requires.
After about two hours, the Court hearing commenced again and Adrian Fisher called out PC Ibrahim Mbayo to take the stand. When the witness took the stand he said that he Detective Sergeant MBawa – at which point, JFK further raised another objection saying that since the name on the back of the indictment is different from the name of the person in the witness box, Adrian Fisher cannot proceed without first amending. The judge again, upheld the objection and ordered the Prosecution to amend the indictment.
The next objection made by JFK was that Witness Tigidankay Kamara is a witness that doesn’t exist, and wishes to know how her name came to be on the back of the indictment. The prosecution concede that it was an error cause by cut and paste in the preparation of their indictment.
JFK then submitted that the prosecution should now make an application to have the name deleted/struck off, which the prosecution did.
Aside from JFK, Defense lawyer for the second accused – veteran Roland Wright Esq. took several other objections to the affidavit filed by the prosecution on the basis that it was defective in that:
(i) it was not in a book form as required by Order 31 rule (1) sub rule (6) of the High Court Rules 2007.
(ii) the respondent deposed to facts she had no knowledge of and did not contain a statement as to its information or belief contrary to order 31 rule (5) of the High Court rules 2007.
(iii) that in the title of the affidavit the prosecution referred to the state as the respondent and in the backing as the Applicant and therefore inconsistent.
Fisher invokes order 36 rule (4) to use a defective affidavit notwithstanding the errors as highlighted by Roland Wright Esq.
Roland Wring was quick to point out that the defect which can be cured is only as to the form and not the content which was his third objection.
The Judge, not to further subject the prosecution to the agony of refilling a fresh affidavit, asked Fisher to proceed notwithstanding the objection.
It was a very embarrassing day for the prosecution as the defense unpicked all the errors of the prosecution, and objected seven times.
One senior Lawyer present said, the Prosecution have been taken through the rudimentary of criminal procedure. He labelled the Session today as “Criminal Procedure made Simple”.
What this treason trial has exposed is that by its performance in Court the AG and her team are extremely weak, and were unable to match the collective experience and dexterity in law which the defense team exhibited.
“One other observation from this trial is that the DPP, Easmon Ngakui, is a mere decoration at the law officers department. The person calling the shots to all intent and purpose is Adrian Fisher,” the senior lawyer observing the case said.
The matter was adjourned to next Monday, 15th June, when the defense will make a submission of ‘no case to answer’.
Palo Conteh was represented by Abdulia O Conteh, JFK, Africanus Sorie Sesay, Ady Macauley and Wara Serry-Kamal.