‘I was forced to make a statement’


- Squadron leader tells Court Martial

May 6, 2015 By Alusine Sesay

Squadron leader Philip Joseph Shenks, who is being tried at the regular court martial at army headquarters in Freetown on two counts of forgery, yesterday told the court that he was forced by military police to make a statement during interrogation.

Led in evidence by defence counsel E.E.C. Shears-Moses, the accused recalled 7 May, 2013 when one Captain Bockarie Conteh of the Special Investigation Branch “informed me that a letter has been forwarded to him for investigation. He held the letter in his hands and refused me reading its content, saying he did not want me to destroy it”.

The letter in question is the one the military alleges the accused purportedly forged in his bid to seek an extension of his study leave in the United Kingdom.

But the accused rebutted the authenticity of the letter, noting that he had refused to make a statement on the grounds that the letter shown to him was not authentic as it was a photocopy.

“The Captain did confess to me that it was a photocopy and that he himself had never set eyes on the original despite him requesting for it from the authorities,” said Squadron leader Shenks. “I insisted that I will not make a statement and he threatened to put me under arrest since he had been nice to me for revealing that he hadn’t set eyes on the original copy. He further told me that he was in the company with the powers-that-be who told him that he should not consider himself for promotion or sent on an international mission should he fail to conduct the investigation.”

Contrary to what Captain Bockarie had earlier told the court in his testimony while testifying as first prosecution witness that he took statement from the accused at the Ministry of Defence, the accused told the court that the statement was obtained from him at the Special Investigation Branch office at army headquarters.

He added that no witness was present when he was forced to make a statement, and that he did not append his signature to the said statement.

Earlier, the accused told the court he had obtained a course report of his performance from the school in the United Kingdom, which he submitted to the Director of Training, Education and Recruitment, Colonel Yanka, who in turn acknowledged and forwarded it to the Director of Personnel at the Ministry of Defence.

A letter of acknowledgement dated 7 May, 2013, written by the Director of Training, Education and Recruitment, which indicated acceptance of the course report, was tendered as defence Exhibit J.

However, the prosecution objected that the said letter was a photocopy, but Judge Advocate Alhaji Abu B. King ruled in favour of the defence.

The defence also tendered two documents, a covering letter and specimen charge sheet given to the accused by his commanding officers, with both tendered as Exhibits K and K1.

The accused is charged with two counts of forging an official document, contrary to section 65 of the Armed Forces Act of 1961, and conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline, contrary to Section 71(A) of the same Act as amended.

The matter has been in court since 9 September, 2014 with the prosecution presenting three witnesses who have all testified. The prosecution has closed their case, while the onus is now on the defence to disprove the evidence tendered against the accused.