By Yankuba Jallow
Senior Lawyer Neneh M.C Cham, the newly elected President of the Gambia Bar Association has called on the Gambia Police Force to correct the way they charge people (suspects).
“Much progress has been made in this dispensation in terms of rebuilding a democratic state that shows respect for the rule of law, human rights and freedoms. However, we mustn’t rest on our laurels. Gone are the days when citizens are arrested, charged at the police station, granted bail and yet not prosecuted and charges continue to hang over them for long periods of time,” she said.
She said these statements at the Opening of the Legal Year, which is an important occasion where stakeholders come together to take stock of the achievements in the legal profession, as well as the state of our nation’s democracy, the observance of the rule of law, and protection of human rights and freedoms.
She added that it is also a moment to reflect on the challenges they face in the administration of justice.
She stated that generally, the achievements of the Judiciary include the increased number of courts and the appointment of new judges and magistrates in both the Greater Banjul Area and the regions.
“This naturally translates to greater and closer access to the courts. I understand the Supreme Court is soon to enjoy the compliment of a full bench of 100% Gambian judges. This is welcome. However, more courts and human resource are needed to really oil the wheels of justice delivery and in all regions of the Gambia,” she said.
She added: “It is a fact however, that the administration of justice still faces some degree of the usual challenges in the form of delays in court proceedings, limited financial resources to provide access to justice to citizens. There is also the need to improve our laws through legal reforms. Lack of implementation of certain provisions of the law such as section 30 of the Legal aid Act 2008 presents constraints.
She said “The section requires government to set up the minimum wage which is needed to determine eligibility of indigent persons to legal aid in non-capital offences and civil cases. It is our collective responsibility to address the challenges head-on, ensuring that justice is not delayed or denied or only available to those who can afford to pay for the services of a lawyer.”
She said there is room for improvement and this must be acknowledged. She added that their collective aim must always be to strive to put the Gambia among one of the most rule of Law compliant countries in the world.