Judge and jury to try former Skye Bank Manager

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By Ibrahim Kabba Turay

The Supreme Court presided over by justice Vivian Solomon, Mohamed Deen-Tarawally, Alusine Sesay and Jamestina King, has  unanimously agreed that, the trial  of the former Skye Bank General Manager, Ikubolaje Nicol, who was charged with murder, should  be tried by a judge and jury.

The four judges also unanimously agreed that the accused has right to same treatment for fair trial as others who have faced murder charges since the abolition of the death penalty in 2021.

Presiding, Justice Solomon, in her twenty-seven (27) page ruling, said the court has not been made aware of any greater risk to the public, any need to a trial by judge alone, any issue which requires a more specialist inquiry than a layman could make, any risk or actual incident of jury tampering, and in short, there is no demonstrable risk to the administration of justice.

Justice Solomon also said that the court has received no evidence and heard no submissions as to what distinguishes the case of Ikibolaje Nicol and what makes it one in which a jury should not be used.

In the absence of such evidence, she said that the decision appears to be arbitrary and is to deny him his rights under the constitution.

“It is my view that in the interest of justice, the second respondent herein will not receive fair trial, if we can accept that, he can be tried by judge alone, otherwise will set a dangerous precedent. The interest of justice is best served when all prosecutions are conducted and seen to be conducted objectively, fairly, impartially and with integrity, to help secure justice for victims, witnesses, accused persons and the general public,” Justice Vivian Solomon.

She said the right to jury trial is a fundamental right at common law and that even where parliament sought to limit that right, it retained it for some offences.

Justice Solomon cautioned that it is not the role of the prosecutor to seek conviction at all costs but has among other duties in a criminal trial to present the case to the court by assisting the court to arrive at the truth and achieve justice for the victim and the community

On the 19th June, 2023, High Court Judge, Justice Adrian Fisher, made a thirty-nine page application to the Supreme Court seeking interpretation for a judge alone application by the Attorney General in the case of conspiracy to murder, murder and perverting the course of justice, which had been objected to.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday 11th October heard oral submissions from principal state lawyer, Ahmed James Bockarie and Lawyer Roland Wright defending the accused.

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