By Yankuba Jallow
The Supreme Court of the Gambia Wednesday reduced the conviction of one Sara Camara from life imprisonment to 18 – year imprisonment on charges of rape and robbery with violence.
The sentence would commence from the date of his arrest.
A Peace Corps Volunteer from the United States of America (name withheld) on 12th November 2009, appeared before the Special Criminal Court of the High Court in Banjul as a State witness in an alleged rape and robbery case against one Sara Camara. She told the court that sometime on the 10th of August 2009, she was raped and robbed off her mobile phone by one Sara Camara at the Fajara Beach Hotel. Mr. Camara was convicted on both charges of rape and robbery with violence.
Relating her ordeal before the High Court, she stated that while walking along Kairaba Avenue towards Fajara Beach Hotel for meditation around 7:30 pm, she heard footsteps of someone who was approaching her.
According to her, she as a result, she fastened her footsteps, but in the end, a man gripped her from behind and started searching her.
“I screamed and he grabbed me tighter,” she said.
She testified that the accused removed her Nokia mobile phone and her keys went missing from her pocket during the scuffle.
“He started dragging me towards the palm trees. I was still screaming and struggling. He wrestled me on the ground and strangled me on my neck,” she related.
She said: “He (Camara) told me that I will give you back your phone in return for sex and I said no.”
She testified that the accused continued to grab her neck while on the ground and torn her shirt and started removing her trousers.
She added that she refused to open her legs and the accused unrelentingly tight her neck to the point that she cannot breathe.
She further told the court that she started going down for the count and later the accused abused her down, removed her trousers and thrived in having carnal knowledge with her. She added that after satisfying his sexual urge, he (Camara) anxiously helped her to dress up.
Mr. Camara, who has been under imprisonment for over 10 years was convicted and sentenced by the High Court on the charges of rape and robbery and when he appealed before the Gambia Court of Appeal, the conviction and sentence was upheld. For the judges of the Supreme Court, the High Court judge has failed to apply the discretional powers to sentence properly considering the nature of the offence. Justice Hassan B. Jallow, the Chief Justice of The Gambia while reading the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court said life imprisonment for murder and rape is a maximum punishment, and therefore, held that the conviction on both charges was right but the sentence was excessive. He said at the time of the commission of the offence, the accused person was only 22 –years.
The apex court upheld the conviction on the charges of rape and murder, but as well set aside the sentence of life imprisonment.
“The court finds that the sentences were invalid,” the court held.