A drama unfolded at the Freetown High Court, after the Presiding Judge Justice Mary Sey passed a ruling against an earlier objection to preliminary proceedings filed in by Lawyer Bubuakai Jabbi, Defence Counsel for former Ombudsman Francis Gabidon.
Prior to the ruling, the Presiding Judge systematically explained the technicalities involved in both submissions tendered by the Defence Counsel, Bubuakai Jabbi and the Prosecutor Glena Thompson, quoting a number of case studies contained in both submissions.
The particulars of offence specifically deal with count 1 out of 168 counts of misappropriation in which the accused was alleged to have misappropriated Le 500,000 on behalf of one Christopher Peacock.
Reacting to the ruling the Defense Counsel requested for a stay of proceedings to appeal against the ruling within the next couple of days.
He observed that there is a general principle, indicating that the court should not act in vain.
“Objection is indeed applicable and correct in respect of the present indictment in the interest of justice and judiciousness of criminal proceedings , that would permit an opportunity to determine the objection raised, before substantial trial commenced “ he stated.
“We intend to appeal within a time limit; we therefore plead with your lordship to grant us another stay of proceeding, pending the appeal because there is a necessary right to appeal” the Defence pleaded.
He referred to section 129 sub section 1 and 2 of the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone, with emphases on sub section 2 which stated that, an appeal shall lie as a right in the court of the land.
He also cited section 56 sub section 1 of the Court ACT, sub paragraph B, in which he pointed to a leave of appeal under civil ACT, adding that, there is no requirement for a leave of appeal .
“In any case considering the significance of the principle and the law relating to limitation by statute, we apply through your inherent jurisdiction to grant the defendant a leave of appeal and on hearing the appeal, you equally grant the defendant another stay of proceeding as to the said trial” he continued.
“Application of stay of proceeding invokes rules 28 and 64 of the Court of Appeal rule of 1985, which provides that an application for stay of proceeding of trial could be made to either the Court of Appeal or the Court below” the Defence said.
Craving the indulgence of the Judge to grant them stay of proceedings, Lawyer Jabbi submitted that, whether on a ‘preliminary or interlocutory jurisdictional’ objection in a criminal case, the trial court has power to stay the proceedings pending hearing and determination of appeal against preliminary objection.
The Prosecutor, Glena Thompson reacting to sections 56 and 57 of the civil and criminal appeals, totally objected to any application of appeal or stay of proceedings.
She submitted that, the law only makes provision for appeal after final ruling or judgment.
She concluded that if the accused is convicted towards the conclusion of a trial, an appeal would be permissible but not at the preliminary stage
By Solomon Rogers