Three Judges Sworn-in

L-R: Aisatou Jallow, Sainabou Wadda-Cisse, Veronic Wright

By Kemeseng Sanneh (Kexx)

Banjul, 9th December, 2022: Three justices were sworn-in at the high court on Friday, 9th December, 2022.

Judicial Secretary Aisatou Jallow-Sey, has been promoted as judge of the High Court on Friday.

Two high court judges in the persons of Justices Sainabou Wadda-Cisse and have been promoted as judges of the Court of Appeal.

Chief Justice Hassan B. Jallow said the appointments are another milestone for the Judiciary and a testament to the Judiciary’s effort to increase the capacity to deal with the growing demands on the judicial sector.

Jallow said the swearing-in was a great occasion when superior courts are being enriched with the addition of three Gambian ladies who have had illustrious careers in the law spanning several decades. 

Jallow said Justice Wadda Cisse joined them after successful stint in private practice as well as in the subordinate courts of The Gambia, adding a successful tenure as a judge of the High Court of The Gambia.

Jallow explained further Justice Veronic Wright joined the bench after distinguished service as a law officer in the Attorney General’s Chambers for several years before joining various international organisations such as the UNICTR – that the Rwanda Tribunal, the Commonwealth Secretariat as well as the United Nations as a Prosecutor and as a legal adviser as well. He stated that Justice Aisatou Jallow-Sey also joined after successfully serving as Dean of the Law Faculty of the University of The Gambia, legal adviser to various organisations nationally such as the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority, the Consumer Protection Commission and also at the international level through the COMESA as legal adviser and finally as Judicial Secretary since 2020.

“These three judges bring to the bench a combination of rich experience in the administration of the law, in their knowledge of the law, in judicial administration and management, and the development and execution of legal and judicial policy,” he said.

He mentioned that their appointments and their elevations are undoubtedly well deserved, well merited adding he is certain that they will contribute to improving the quality of justice within our jurisdiction.

He also said the appointments of the two justices of the Court of Appeal provide them now with a full complement of seven judges for The Gambia Court of Appeal that would enable it to function optimally and more efficiently.

“The situation in the high court continues to remain a challenge in terms of the availability of judges. The High Court is a very important link in the judicial system as we know it has a court of original and appellate jurisdiction; original jurisdiction, particularly in the important area of enforcement of the fundamental human rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution. Its jurisdiction is extensive, its workload is equally very extensive given the twin nature of both its original and appellate jurisdiction,” Jallow stated.

He further said for one year now the High Court continues to operate under capacity due to constraints in human resources particularly the recruitment of judges and the availability of resources, adding that some improvements have been registered with the appointments earlier this year of three judges for the high court. He added that those appointments enabled them to beef up the strength of the high court in the rural areas with the posting of a judge to Mansakonko and the posting of a judge to Brikama.

He said as a result, outside Banjul, they have a full-time high court judge in Basse covering URR and CRR, also they have a high court judge in Mansakonko covering LRR and the North Bank Region while two high court judges are operating in Kanifing, one high court judge operating in Bakau who he said will shortly be joined by another high court judge.

He continued to say notwithstanding these developments, the delivery of justice at the level of the high court continues to be a challenge largely due to the enormous number of cases that the court has to hear and determine. 

“Each of our high court judges has at any one time no less than one hundred and fifty cases to hear and to adjudicate and the list keeps growing. That is very a herculean task for any judge to undertake and to perform,” Jallow said.

He said they still need more judges at the high court level and they would be making efforts in the next few months to recruit additional judges for the high court to deal with this increased workload more effectively, ensure increased access at the grassroots level, particularly in the rural areas to the high court jurisdiction and also in preparation particularly dealing with the cases which they expect to be filed following the conclusion of the TRRC process and the acceptance by the Government of its recommendations about the prosecution of cases of human rights abuses in which the prosecution recommended prosecution.

He told the newly appointed Judges that the function of a judge is difficult and challenging because it’s a lonely job given that one has to limit one’s social relations to avoid contamination in his or her work. He said it is a challenging and demanding task given the social restrictions it imposes in one’s life and also challenging and demanding given the volume and complexity of the work that is involved.

He stressed that being judge is  perhaps one of the most honourable professions as they provide redress to those who are aggrieved and wipe the tears from the eyes of those who have been wronged while equally contributing to strengthening the rule of law and good governance and justice and ultimately peace within one’s community.

As he welcomed the new judges to the benches of the superior courts, Chief Jallow reminded himself and the new Judges of some of the most ethical principles which govern judges and which are reflected in the code of conduct for judges as set out in the Judges (Supplementary) Code of Conduct.

He said Judge or any judicial officer’s function is to settle disputes according to law and to get people to abide by the law, but it must start from oneself by respecting and abiding by the law and upholding the course of justice as well.

“The Judge must uphold and exemplify judicial independence. The Judge must exercise his or her judicial functions independently and free of extraneous influence. A judge must strive to conduct himself or herself with integrity to sustain and enhance public confidence in the machinery of justice. The judge must ensure that his or her conduct is above reproach in the view of reasonable, fair-minded and informed persons. A judge must not only be, but must also appear to be impartial and be fair in respect of his or her duties. He or she must avoid all impropriety in his or her decision making. A judge must be diligent in the performance of his or her judicial duties and should endeavor to perform with reasonable promptness all his or her judicial duties including the delivery of judgments and must not engage in conduct incompatible with the diligent discharge of his or her judicial duties. A judge must be punctual for duty, give judgments and decisions with reasons as soon as reasonably possible,” he stated.

Jallow reiterated that a judge or any judicial officer is expected to be law-abiding, to be independent, to be impartial, bias-free, diligent in their duties, to be prompt at their work and avoid unnecessary court delays, and to give decisions and judgments within a reasonable time.

He called on all judicial officers, whether a judge, magistrates, cadis, lawyers, police, or parties to cases, conscious of and responsive to the growing public concerns about delays in the management of cases before the courts.

“What is unacceptable are delays that are avoidable such as unnecessary adjournments, prolonged adjournments, and delays in the presentation of cases and the delivery of judgments,” he emphasized. 

He added that Judges and magistrates and all adjudicators should be diligent in their work as required by the ethics of their profession.

Jallow took time to advise lawyers saying they should conduct themselves properly as ministers in the temple of justice and see their primary responsibility as ensuring that justice is indeed delivered and avoid days by ensuring that cases are dealt with as expeditiously as possible, adding that parties as well have that responsibility. 

“The Courts will not allow counsel and parties to bring cases to court and to fail to pursue them diligently,”

He said after the new year, he will be issuing a practice direction that will empower judges and magistrates to deal with cases that are filed in court but which the parties seem unable or reluctant to proceed with, within a particular time frame, and will also issue a practice direction setting up a Judiciary Prison Visiting Committee whose task would be essential to inspect the prison, particularly the remand wing at six months intervals to ascertain the cases of those remand prisoners to identify those cases of persons who are in prolong pre-trial detention and whose cases don’t seem to be progressing expeditiously and to make recommendations to the Chief Justice for the necessary measures to be taken.

“I look forward to the cooperation of all stakeholders in the justice process, the judges, magistrates, the cadis, the lawyers, parties, litigants, and staff of the Judiciary. All of us must work together to ensure quality justice delivery in our jurisdiction,” he concluded.

The President of the Bar Association, Lawyer Salieu Faal called on the Judiciary to be proactive and do more to improve the administration of justice and therefore enhance the public’s confidence in the justice sector. He said the judiciary can do better by engaging in productive public education to appraise the public of the works and challenges of the judicial sector.

He said the Bar is committed to working with the Judiciary as a key stakeholder and partner to respond to the challenges.