By Louise Jobe
Many Gambians whose cases are being delayed at the Brikama Magistrate’s Court have renewed their call on Chief Justice, Hassan B. Jallow to assign new magistrates to replace the former magistrates.
The magistrates’ court in Brikama is facing the problem of a lack of magistrates. Magistrate Peter Adoh Che was transferred to Bansang Magistrates Court around December 2022 and Principal Magistrate Isatou Darboe is now serving as the Director General of the National Agency Against Trafficking in Person (NAATIP). Both Magistrates were transferred without their successors. This problem coupled with the absence of other magistrates is causing delays in trials.
On Tuesday, 28 February 2023, there was only one Magistrate who worked at the Brikama Magistrate’s Court. Magistrate Fatoumata Darboe was not able to take fresh cases on the day. She adjourned all the fresh cases to Wednesday, 1 March 2023.
Magistrate Ebou Sowe was not at work. The information Foroyaa gathered was that he was ill. Magistrate Aji Bintou Faal, according to a reliable source, is on leave and has not yet reported for work.
Police prosecutors brought suspects for trial but they went back because of the lack of magistrates to hear their cases. Detainees from Mile 2 were all returned because of the same problem.
Tens of people were seated at the court premises underneath the mango tree waiting to be told when their cases would be heard.
The litigants have expressed frustration about the prolongation of their cases because of the lack of trial magistrates. They have asked the Chief Justice to take immediate steps to deploy new magistrates to Brikama so that their cases can proceed.
The impact of the lack of magistrates is huge on the litigants whose cases. Brikama, the commercial town of the West Coast Region has a magistrate’s court which is one of the busiest in the country.
Abdou William, the Head of the Accident and Emergency Unit of the Gambia Transport Union said that one of his drivers, Alieu Jallow was involved in a road accident and was kept under police custody without bail. Alieu’s case was brought before Magistrate Fatou Daboe who could not take up fresh cases for hearings until Wednesday, 1 March 2023.
Another driver Modou Manneh who was allegedly caught with some cannabis sativa while transporting dealers was not mentioned. He has been under police custody for one month without bail because of the insufficient magistrates to take up fresh cases.
A court official who wished not to be mentioned said the impact of the insufficient magistrate is mounting pressure on the few available magistrates. He added that the Brikama Magistrate’s Court has several backlogs of cases which have been going on for several years without much progress. He told Foroyaa that the recent lack of magistrates would only compound the problems they had and it will take a long time to deal with the cases.
The judicial officer stated that he empathise with the litigants who were seen all seated underneath the mango tree inside the court premises all frustrated.
The Court’s Registrar at Brikama is still ill and has not been reporting for work. Foroyaa could not get her comments on the matter.