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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Local movie pirates to answer to 150 count charges

By Hawa Amara

The trio of Abass Kamara, Gibrilla Kamara and Osman Jalloh were last Friday remanded at the maximum security prison on Pademba Road after a Freetown Magistrate refused them bail.

The accused persons were arraigned at Freetown Magistrates’ Court No.2 for being in possession of pirated copies of Sierra Leonean movies. They were charged on one hundred and fifty-one (150) counts of conspiracy to commit felony, distributing copyright property, selling copyright property and infringement, contrary to section 71(1)(a) of the Copyright Act of 2011.

The prosecution alleged that the trio were on 11th January, 2014, caught selling and distributing illegal copies of local movies at the Old PZ building on Wilberforce Street, produced by various producers, and without their authorization.

The accused persons were represented by a battery of lawyers, including A.K. Musa, E.T. Koroma, E.S. Abdulai, and T. Beah. Also, A.S. Marrah, B. Jones, J. Cole, A. Koroma and S.U.B. Saffa associated with the prosecution.

Lead defence counsel, A.K. Musa raised a preliminary objection in respect of charges under which the accused persons were charged. He submitted that the charges were contrary to section 78(1) & (2) of the Copyright Act which emphasizes the need for alternative dispute resolution, failure which a dispute under the Act will then be brought to court by the Registrar.

He therefore submitted that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter.

Thus, Magistrate Komba Kamanda opined that the defence counsel has raised a serious legal issue which the police prosecutor is incompetent to reply to, and that the court will have to refer to the Attorney-General to produce a lawyer to interpret the section.

In respect of that, police prosecutor Assistant Superintendent Raymond B. Dunia asked for an adjournment to give the prosecutor time to reply to the submission of the defence.

Consequently, the defence counsel applied for bail for the accused persons, citing section 23 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone (Act No. 6 of 1991), that the accused persons are presumed not guilty until proved guilty in a court of law. He also supported his bail application pursuant to section 79(32) of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1965.

However, ASP Dunia objected to the bail application, citing the seriousness of the offences and the likelihood the accused will interfere with prosecution witnesses.

Magistrate Kamanda denied the accused bail on the grounds that “the prosecution has not yet led evidence and if granted bail at this stage, they (accused) might interfere with prosecution witnesses”.

The matter was adjourned to 29th January.

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