Sergeant 1631 Sia Elizabeth Conteh, (PW3) attached to the Transnational Organised Crime Unit (TOCU), yesterday disclosed that she was not present at the scene, when the forensic test was done on the suspected substance, alleged to be cocaine.
She made this disclosure at the Freetown Magistrate Court No.2 presided over by Magistrate Komba Kamanda on a charge of alleged unlawful possession of substance suspected to be cocaine involving twelve accused, Isha Bangura, Louisa Karim, Amma Kamara, Pa Sorie Bangura, Mustapha Bangura, Kadiatu Baby Saffa, Anita John, Wilfred Showers, Tina Thompson, Neneh Barrie, Fatmata Sowa and Zainabu Dainkeh.
The witness recognised all the accused in the dock, explaining that on 7th December 2012, a group of police officers launched an operation at a drug cartel at Lumley Street.
At this point, Lawyer F.B. Kelfala representing the second accused Isha Bangura, objected that the witness should not refer to the place as a cartel, as she must prove that in court.
As a result, Magistrate Komba Kamanda asked Lawyer Kelfala to wait, until when he will be cross-examining the witness to prove her statement.
According to the witness, some of the accused were caught in possession of a hard drug substance, suspected to be cocaine and others at a place where loiters smoke.
As the matter was allocated to her for further investigation, she disclosed that she cautioned and questioned them in Krio and recorded their statements in English.
She maintained that on 8th December 2012, they submitted the drug for forensic examination and the result of the test was received by her the next day. The result was about to be tendered, when Lawyer Kelfala objected that the witness is not the appropriate person to tender the document, as their role in court as a Lawyer is to examine evidence and cross-examine the witness in order to authenticate the exhibit.
According to Lawyer Kelfala, his objection was based on the fact that the witness might not want to answer questions on forensic issues and may cause the document to be prejudicial before the court.
He was also of the view that the witness was not the one who prepared the report or to whom it was directed to, and finally and more importantly, section 70 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965 is very clear, as the document to be tendered should be original with an authentic signature and not photocopy, as a result, ‘ I therefore invite the court to reject the document.’
In response to the objections, Sergeant 1933 A.M. Jah representing the prosecution, cited section 70 subsection 1 and 2 which gives the right for any document to be tendered in court by a Police officer for as long as it is the original, maintaining that the said forensic report that is about to be tendered was computerised and not a photocopy.
Magistrate Komba Kamanda states that section 70 of the CPA of 1965 is very clear, as the police can tender any document whether medical report or any other document as it is left with the defence to prove it during cross- examination.He also said that he understands the position of the defence counsel, as it is very hard for the witness to answer questions on the document, as the prosecution normally objects to these questions and then refer them to either the medical doctor or other experts.
The Magistrate ruled that having listened to both objections made by counsel for the accused and the submission made by the prosecution, since the prosecution is insisting that the forensic report is original, the court has no option but to allow the document to be tendered, pursuant to the said section, but however, even if tendered in the Preliminary Investigation, there is nothing preventing the report to be discarded during the trial.
The report was then tendered as exhibit before the court by the investigator, Sergeant 1631 Sia Elizabeth Conteh.
During cross-examination by Lawyer F.B. Kelfala, the witness disclosed that she did not visit the scene of arrest, as she was not present when the forensic test was done, adding that her name was not on the report and it was not addressed to her simply because she was not the head of TOCU.
Lawyer Kelfala then decided to ask questions directly related to the report and the prosecution then raised objections to such questions.
At that point, Magistrate Komba Kamanda stated that he knew the prosecution will object and maintained that he will never allow the document to be tendered without the author’s presence to complete the cross-examination, as he had asked the prosecution to come with the author at the next adjourn date.
Lawyer J.B. Jenkins-Johnston applied to renew their bail application for the accused, as they have been in detention for over two months and the offences for which they are in court are bailable, adding that the accused have reliable sureties who are willing and ready to stand on their behalf as most of the accused are young girls and boys, and he hoped they will be admitted to bail by the Magistrate.
Sergeant 1933 A.M Jah, representing the prosecution, vehemently opposed to bail, based on his previous points to save the time of the court.
“Considering the serious nature of the matter, the accused are remanded in custody,” Magistrate Kamanda
The matter comes up on 8th February 2013.
By Alhaji M. Kamara