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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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As APC Kemoh Sesay granted bail… Charles Margai says Freetown Magistrate Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter

By Jeneba A Conteh 

Lead defense counsel in the matter between former Minister of Works, Alhaji Kemoh Sesay, under the President Koroma regime, lawyer Charles Francis Margai, has argued that the Magistrate Court in Freetown lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter against the accused.

Police had alleged that the accused person, sometimes between March and April 2022 in Port Loko district, in the Northern province of the Sierra Leone, did willfully communicates indirectly via public gathering, with another person to wit the president of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, knowing that the said communication was likely to cause apprehension or fear of violence to him.

The accused was further alleged to have at the same place and date did use the said communication to detrimentally affect the said person. 

Consequently, he was arraigned on two count charges to wit cyber stalking and cyber bullying, contrary to Section 44 (1) (a) of the Cyber Security and Crime Act 2021.

However, Lawyer Margai argued that police had alleged that the said offence was allegedly committed by the accused in Port Loko District. 

He noted that the framers of the Court Act No. 31 of 1965 rightly divided Sierra Leone into judicial districts, with each district having a magistrate empowered by the law to have jurisdiction over that district. He cited Section 5(1) of the Court Act No. 31 of 1965 which states that a magistrate shall have jurisdiction in the court that the Chief Justice assigned him or her. 

“Since the prosecution alleged that the offence took place in Port Loko, it is my submission that the Magistrate Court in Freetown lacks the jurisdiction to try the matter,” he said. 

Lawyer Margai noted that the liberty of the accused person was at stake and that his liberty can only be toiled with in exceptional circumstance and urged Magistrate Kekura to discharge his client. 

On the other hand, lead prosecutor, lawyer Ahmed James Maxwell Bockarie, argued that the Section of law quoted by the defense counsel deals squarely with magistrates, and not the magistrate court, adding that preliminary investigations can be conducted anywhere. 

He added that the Chief Justice has the sole responsibility to transfer magistrates to different magistrate courts and urged Magistrate Kekura to discountenance the application made by lawyer Margai. 

He added that the accused charged does not fall under the 2nd Scheduled of the Court Act of 1981 and continued that the offence did not fall under the category of summary offence.

There were arguments and counter-arguments as to whether the offence was supposed to be summary or preliminary investigation. 

After Magistrate Kekura withdrew the file for ruling, lawyer Margai applied for bail for his client. He canvassed his bail plea on Section 79(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act No. 32 of 1965. 

The prosecution could not object to the bail application, for they did not file any affidavit in opposition, rather they relied on the discretion of the Bench with regards the issue of bail. 

Magistrate Kekura granted bail to the accused in the sum of Le 500 million Leones, plus two sureties, one of which should produce a title deed. He added that the accused be reporting to the Director of Crime Services three times a week, and he adjourned the matter to the 11th May 2022.

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