Principal Magistrate Omar Cham of the Banjul Magistrates’ Court last Thursday ruled that the change of plea application submitted by the defence counsel of Ebrima B Njie and Edrissa Manga, two prison wardens who are facing charges of aiding a prisoner to escape and negligence of official duties as premature at the time of applying.
Magistrate Cham made the decision when Counsel Patrick Gomez submitted an application that his clients intended to change their plea from guilty to not guilty. The state prosecutor, Lamin Jarju opposed the defence’s application, urging the court to disapprove it for lack of merit.
Ebrima B Njie and Edrissa Manga are accused of negligently permitting Abdoulie Ceesay; the Managing Director of Teranga FM to escape from their lawful custody while on duty on 19th April 2016 at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) in Banjul.
They are also accused of wilfully neglecting to perform their duty to wit keep custody of Abdoulie Ceesay while on duty on 19th April 2016 at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) in Banjul.
State Prosecutor Jarju argued that it is a practice that accused persons could change their plea before they are sentenced, saying in this case the accused persons had already pleaded guilty and they are convicts. “So an application to change their pleas is wrong. Looking at Section 164(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the condition of which the accused persons are convicted is satisfactory.”
He said if the accused persons change their pleas; it would amount to the court reviewing its already decided decision but Defence Counsel Gomez said State Prosecutor Jarju had misconceived the argument for the accused persons to change their pleas at trial stage.
He said the rule of the Criminal Procedure Code is straight-forward, saying it requires that an accused person’s plea of guilty does not automatically amount to conviction.
Counsel Gomez stated that the Criminal Procedure Code requires that after an accused person’s plea of guilt, the state is invited to narrate the facts for the accused person to react. He said the rationale is that the fact must disclose the elements of the offence charged. He then urged the court to exercise its discretion and refuse the state prosecutor’s application but the presiding magistrate ruled that defence’s application was premature at the time.
The case is adjourned to 1st August for narration of facts.
by Lama S Jallow