By Feima Sesay
Magistrate Mark Ngegba of Pademba Road Court No.2 on Monday 27th June 2022 sentenced Ishmael Bah and ten others to 3 years, 6 months imprisonment after finding them guilty of Disorderly Behavior and Riotous Conduct respectively, while the 12th accused Ibrahim Kabia was acquitted and discharged of the said counts.
The convicted persons were standing trial before the court on two counts charge of Disorderly Behavior and Riotous Conduct contrary to section 12 of the Public Order Act No.46 as repealed and replaced by section 12 (a) of Act No.15 of 1973.
It was alleged that Ishmael Bah, Mohamed S. Bah, Zunaika Jabbie, Abibatu Sesay, Isatu Cece Kabba and six others on Wednesday 15th June 2022 at Operational Support Division (OSD) Headquarters at King Harman Road in Freetown behaved in a disorderly manner and in a riotous manner.
Magistrate Ngegba prior to his judgement, informed the court that the Prosecution proved their case against the accused persons and called four witnesses who testified and were cross examined by the Defense team. He said there is sufficient evidence that the accused went to the OSD Headquarters demanding to see LAJ and when they were told that he was not in their custody, they started throwing Mega rubbers at the police, adding that it was the first, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11th accused persons who went into the reception area demanding to see LAJ by all means while others were misbehaving outside the compound and that was when AIG Tawa ordered their arrest.
Statements of all the accused persons were tendered in court as exhibits respectively to form part of the Prosecution’s case.
Magistrate Ngegba added that at the close of the Prosecution’s case, each accused person relied on their respective statements to the police, noting that he had carefully read all their statements as to what happened on that day.
According to him, statements of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth accused persons attempted to tell the same story of them campaigning for one of the Housemate Salon Season III contestants when they were arrested but the Magistrate maintained that he did not find their argument convincing.
Also, the fifth and tenth accused persons in their statements revealed that they are living together as fiancé and fiancée.
The seventh and eighth accused persons also stated in their respective statements to the police that they too are fiances but their statements did not collaborate. The Magistrate said the reason given by the first accused person to the police was the same as that of the 11th accused person, while the 12th accused person’s statement to the police said at the instruction of his mother, he went to collect some money.
Generally each accused denied the allegation but at some point showed that they were at the scene of crime, the Magistrate told the court.
“I have pointed out the inconsistencies in each accused person’s statement and I find the 12th accused person’s story convincing as there was also evidence of the of the accused person helping each other”, the Magistrate said.
According to him the Defense attempted to defend the allegations but failed woefully.
” Having looked at the evidence before me, and given due consideration, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 &11 accused persons are guilty on both counts of Disorderly Behavior and Riotous Conduct respectively while the 12th accused is acquitted and discharged”, he ruled.
Lawyer Derick Atachor in his plea mitigated on behalf of the first to sixth accused persons, saying that the convicted persons are vibrant, young and energetic Sierra Leoneans and in his opinion are future leaders of this nation. He added that some of them are bread winners of their respective families while some are students.
He pleaded further with the court to tamper justice with mercy, stating that the convicts having spent over a week at the Correctional facility have learnt a bitter lesson.
Lawyer Atachor said a custodial sentence will destroy their mind and that in tempering justice with mercy, he is pleading with the Bench to caution and discharge the accused persons or impose a minimal fine.
Lawyer Madieu Sesay in his plea on behalf of the 7,8,9,10 &11 convicted persons thanked the Bench for his ruling, adding that the laws of Sierra Leone are meant to reform citizens and that standing before the court and having spent a week and half at the Correctional facility they have learnt their lesson.
He revealed to the court that the seventh and eighth accused persons are husband and wife and that they have a 6 months’ old baby who has been living without parents for over a week and in the circumstance, pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy.
He added that the 7th to 11th accused persons are first time offenders and that section 12 of the constitution gives the Bench the right to caution and discharge.
Lawyer Sesay also pleaded with the Bench not to impose a custodian sentence but impose a minimal fine, adding that though conviction is a matter of law but sentencing is the discretion of the Bench.
State Prosecutor Y.I Sesay in reply to the plea mitigation of the Defense counsels said the convicts who were charged on two counts of Disorderly Behavior and Riotous Conduct have the same punishment and can be fined Le2 million or a punishment of one year, six months. He therefore asked for the minimum, adding that the Defense did not address the issue of sentencing.
He noted that the court is a court of law and the country is governed by law, adding that the evidence of PW1 showed that the manner in which the accused persons acted at the OSD Headquarters was premeditated.
“In as much as we consider riotous conduct as a misdemeanor, it is the conduct itself that will lead to death in the circumstance and begged the Bench to give the convicted persons a maximum sentence that will send a warning to others out there, and further pleaded for the sentence to run consecutively and not concurrently.
Magistrate Mark Ngegba having listened to both Defense team and the State Prosecutor sentenced all the accused persons to 18 months’ imprisonment.
After his judgement all the convicted persons including three females and their relatives and friends burst into tears in open court, while the lawyers expressed their disappointment over the judgement.