By Shout-Africa Gambia Correspondent – The Banjul Magistrates’ Court yesterday convicted and sentenced Lawyer Mosses B. Johnson Richards to two years in prison with hard labour for the offence of sedition.
Richards, a former High Court judge, was also sentenced to six months in prison with hard labour for the offence of giving false information to a public officer.
Both sentences are to run concurrently.
Delivering his judgment, Magistrate Alagba told the court that the accused person was arraigned before the court for the offence of giving false information and for sedition.
He added that Richards denied the charges when they were read to him, adding that the prosecution called two witnesses in support of their case, including the Sheriff of the High Court.
He pointed out that the accused person also opened his defence, and called three witnesses, including the Alkalo of Jabang village, the director of Physical Planning and Housing, as well as the photographer who took photos of the scene.
Still in his judgment, the magistrate told the court that the accused person in his defence testimony said it was the alkalo of Jabang village who came and pleaded with him, and asked him to write a letter to stop the alleged execution of a legal order in the village of Jabang, and that failure to do so within three days they would go ahead with the execution.
He added that on 24th July 2011, the defence closed their case, adding that the prosecution addressed the court and stated the grounds to convince the court in support of their case.
The trial magistrate in his judgment, among others, further stated that the defence counsel also submitted in their address that the prosecution had failed to call his Excellency, as the prosecution’s material witness.
In his plea of mitigation on behalf of the Gambia Bar Association, senior defence counsel Antouman A.B Gaye and the Sheriff Marie Tambedou, the president of the GBA, told the court that the convict was a former high court judge and a magistrate, and served his country with due commitment during his tenure in office.
Counsel told the court that the convict is 51 years old and married with three children, who are all of school-going age.
He said the convict is a lawyer by profession a barrister, an LLB holder who acquired this at the University of Ghana, where he completed his studies because of the civil war in Sierra Leone, where he started.
Counsel added that Richards was later appointed as a 1st class magistrate and served both at the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court and Bundung Magistrates’ Court.
In 2007, the convicted person was given a scholarship to study for a degree program, and while studying in the United Kingdom he received news that the President had appointed him as High Court judge, at the Special Criminal Division to hear serious cases.
Counsel Gaye quoted the punishment in the section under which the accused person was convicted, adding that the law does not impose a custodial sentence on a first-time offender.
The particulars of offence on count one stated that Moses B Johnson Richards, on 6 November 2010 at Banjul within the jurisdiction of the court, knowingly gave false information to the Sheriff of The Gambia to wit that His Excellency the President of the Gambia has ordered the stay of the execution of the writ of possession in civil suit No.349/92 B No. 28, with intent to cause the Sheriff of the Gambia to stop the execution of the said writ of possession.
The charge sheet on count two read that Moses B Johnson Richards, on 6th November 2010 at Banjul within the jurisdiction of the court, published a letter to the Sheriff of The Gambia stating that His Excellency the President of The Gambia has ordered the stay of execution of a writ of possession in the civil suit No,349/92B No 28, with intent to bring into contempt the person of the said President.