By Janet A Sesay
Magistrate Hannah Bonnie who is presiding over the treason case of Alfred Paolo Conteh and two others is set to deliver a ruling on the production of CCTV footage in court.
The ruling which is expected next Thursday will set the pace for the continuation of the treason trial.
The 1st accused, Alfred Paolo Conteh is a former Minister of Defence in the past administration.
Ady Macauley is the lead defence counsel for the 1st accused while Adrian Fisher prosecutes for the state.
The controversial issue of CCTV footage was raised by the defence counsel during last Monday’s testimony of Detective Sergeant Alhaji Gima attached to the Presidential guard at State House.
The lead counsel had invoked the powers of the court to compel the production of the CCTV footage for the court to know what transpired between the 1st accused and the presidential guards at State house.
Since the application for the production of CCTV footage was made, Counsel Adrian Fisher has been quite critical of the defence’s application citing the public interest.
However, Fisher applied for an adjournment date with no clear promise that the CCTV footage would be produced in court.
The same issue also dominated last Friday’s proceedings where Counsel Fisher made it clear that the CCTV footage could not be produced in court reiterating the public interest.
Counsel Fisher argued that the question of producing CCTV footages requires the witness to answer under section 36 of the National Security and Intelligence Act of 2002.
“The witness in this case is a police officer who is subject to the instruction of the Inspector General of Police by virtue of section 155 of the Sierra Leone constitution Act No 6 of 1991,” he argued.
Counsel Fisher also submitted that the security arrangement at State House is a matter integral to the Security Council and that the police witness could not be compelled to answer such question.
“The court is performing its function under part 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965 and the question of security apparatus at State House is not relevant to the issue that the court has to determine,” he submitted.
Fisher rounded up his argument that the witness had testified “clearly” on what he saw that day at State House.
“Several witnesses have to testify as to what transpired that day and the court will see the totality of the evidence,” Counsel Fisher ended.
In his response, Counsel Macauley argued that the fact before the court was the existence of a CCTV footage at State House and that the argument of state counsel did not admit the said act.
Counsel Macauley made reference to Detective Gima’s testimony which touched on a scanning machine and CCTV footage at State House.
He reminded the court that the first accused was standing trial on a “very serious” offence that attracted capital punishment if found guilty.
“Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done,” he argued.
Counsel Macauley maintained that the CCTV footage was vital to the court noting that the state prosecutor did not want to disclose it in court.
“It is a documentary evidence that should be brought to court, and the prosecutor should be able to print that area of the footage and present it in court,” Counsel Macauley submitted.
Having heard submissions from the state and defence counsels, Magistrate Hannah Bonnie adjourned the matter to 9th April to deliver ruling regarding the production of CCTV footage in court.
It could be recalled that the accused persons, Alfred Paolo Conteh, Sahr Anthony Sinnah and Prince George Hughes were arraigned on sixteen counts charges including treason.
The court details indicate that the accused persons, on Thursday 19th March 2020, at State House, Tower Hill in Freetown endeavoured to carry out by force to assassinate the President Julius Maada Bio by evading the security system at state house while attending meeting at the State House.
By Janet A Sesay