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Court Martial: New documentary evidence challenged

By Allieu Sahid Tunkara

Defence counsel in the on-going trial at the Court Martial presided over by Judge Advocate Alhaji Abu Bakarr King has tendered in court a letter from the Ministry of defence as part of the defence`s evidence.

The letter which was authored by Major Taluva in the Defence Ministry   requested that the accused, Major Philip Shenks, face summary dealings in respect of the allegation for which he (Shenks) was standing trial at the court martial.

The defence counsel, Shears Moses, tendered the document during re-examination of the accused. This move was however objected to by the prosecution counsel, Ishmail Philip Mamie, who said he had never seen a document being tendered during cross re-examination.

Mamie said the purpose of re-examination was to clear any issue that had to do with ambiguity.

The document which the defence was about to tender in evidence was not addressed to the accused, he observed. “It is only his name that is mentioned,” he said.

The defence counsel further argued that the letter in question was a photocopy with obliterated signature and that he never knew where it came from.

Mamie told the court that the document contained a purported official stamp which he could not make out. Besides, the document should be tendered by the appropriate authority, he argued.

But the defence counsel insisted that the document had been in the possession of the accused and that the prosecution counsel had cited no authority to show that a document cannot be tendered during re-examination, particularly when the document relates to a new issue raised during cross examination.

Mr Shears Moses also argued that it was needless for the document to be personally served the accused as it was addressed to the division of which he (accused) was the head.

After both arguments of the defence and the prosecution counsels, the Judge Advocate overruled the prosecution’s argument and ordered that the document be tendered in evidence. The prosecution counsel conducted no cross examination on the document.

“I am wise enough not to ask him question,” he said.

Meanwhile, Joseph Abu Bakarr Sanu, a police officer attached to the Fire Arms Bureau of the Scientific Support Unit (SSU), Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters, took the witness stand and attempted to tender a document which was the result of the forensic analysis done on exhibit ‘G’, being the letter of study leave approval which the prosecution alleged was forged by the accused.

The prosecution counsel also objected to the tendering of the document in question, stating that this was the first time to see the document in court. He told the court that the defence must serve him the document before coming to court.

“I wish to be served with the document along with all other documents he intends to serve,” he said.

The Judge Advocate upheld the objection of the prosecution counsel and ordered the defence counsel to serve the document on the prosecution counsel prior to the next court sitting.

Squadron Leader (Major) Philip Joseph Shenks is standing trial at the court martial on two counts of Forgery of study leave approval and conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.

The prosecution alleged that on dates between 10th and 15th December 2012, while the accused was on a study leave in the UK, he forged a study leave approval and inserted the name and signature of the Director of Personnel in the Ministry of Defence contrary to the Armed Forces Act of 1961.

Bail for the accused continues.

The matter comes up on Tuesday 16th June.

Politico 10/06/15