By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
NB: this article is repeated today with modifications in observance of LAW DAY which was observed last Friday by the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) in Monrovia.
Since news about the reported warrant to the Liberia National Police and subsequent arrest of former police officer Yekeh Kolubah and others on multiple charges, including armed robbery, there have been much public concerns about the way and manner in which those accusing him and others have proceeded by going to the Magisterial court in Harbel, Margibi County, which issued the warrant to arrest Mr. Kolubah and others. They have been charged with armed robbery, and criminal conspiracy to commit armed robbery and criminal mischief.
Recently, it was reported that the Magisterial Court in Unification Town, Margibi County has sent out an arrest warrant for Mr. Kolubah and others on multiple charges including armed robbery. According to the writ sheet, Mr. Kolubah and others with deadly weapons including cutlasses, entered the compound of Proprietrix on the night of 21st April and made away with 65 bags of cement and damaged several others.
A day following the arrest order, Police Spokesman, Sam Collins informed The INQUIRER that Mr. Kolubah has already been arrested and was in the custody of the Liberia National Police. This report prompted this paper to dispatch a reporter to the RIA Magisterial Court to get first hand information on the case, which is the name(s) of the complaint, and whether the case emanated from the police.
Interestingly, since the report of the arrest, there seems to be concerns over this manner as it relates to the charge and the criminal justice system of the country. The issue now is whether or not the plaintiff proceeded wrongly by directly going to the court, without first involving or informing the police which has the expertise to investigate such matter as armed robbery, which is a felony under our law, before proceeding to the court as a private prosecutor.
As a student of law, I have also developed interest in this issue, as in the case of some members of the public. My concern is based on the major charge of armed robbery which is a serious crime under the laws of this country. Normally, in the case of armed robbery, the matter should be reported to the police, which will conduct an investigation and if there is any “probable cause,” would proceed to the court to begin prosecuting the accused. “Probable cause,’ is defined as “a reasonable ground to suspect that a person has committed or is committing a crime or that a place contains specific items connected with a crime.” In short, it means that upon probing the matter or looking into all elements of such a matter, it would then be in the position to charge the person.
The Criminal Justice System, sometimes referred to as ‘law enforcement system, is defined by the Black’s Law Dictionary as,”` The collective institutions through which an accused offender passes until the accusations have been disposed of or the assessed punishment concluded. The system typically has three components: law enforcement (police, sheriffs, marshal), the judicial process (judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers), and corrections (person officials, probation officers, and parole officers)…”
Another book defines criminal Justice System as, “the collective institutions through which an accused offender passes until the accusations have been disposed of or the assessed punishment concluded.
As it is known, armed robbery is not an infraction, but a serious crime for which it is not baillable. Because of the nature of this crime, it is always reported to the police to determine whether or not the claim of the complainant constitutes a particular charge, as should have been in this case. Charges for alleged commission of crimes are done based on particular elements of a crime.
For example, there are elements that distinguish manslaughter from murder. Although both are homicide, yet, there are different elements that constitute each. Even regarding the issue of self-defense, for one to claim that, one should consider the issue of “proportionality of force.” Sadly to note, sometimes people do not understand the issues of elements for each crime or defenses.
On the issue at bar, the police has the expertise to determine the kind of crime to be charged on such matter. Under our law; 15.32 on the issue of armed robbery, it states:’ A person has committed a capital offence of armed robbery which is a felony of the first degree if, in the process or course of committing theft, he threatens to kill, kills, or inflicts bodily injury upon a person or group of persons, or places such person or group of persons in imminent danger or peril of life under gun point, or by means of explosives, weapons or other lethal devices.
There are reasons why it is said that the criminal justice system begins with the police because of its investigatory role in determining the appropriate charge before prosecution. Furthermore on the issue of going to court directly; it is possible that someone may one day walk to the court and insist that another person be charged with murder, without even providing the “Corpus Delicti, which is an important piece of evidence in the prosecution of such criminal matter.
A lay person may not be au courant with the appropriate charge. This is why the police must be informed to probe being fully aware that this is a criminal matter and that if the police determine a probable cause and proceed with prosecution with the necessary facts to prosecute the person charged.
Howbeit, because this matter is now in court, I cannot go further. Furthermore, I cannot say whether or not the charge is appropriate based on the facts and circumstances.
But let me say that there is much public concern because of the strange phenomena of someone charging another person of armed robbery. We should not be surprised should another person walk to a court to impose criminal charge on another person, bypassing the government which should gather evidence and prosecute such matter.
Until the conclusion of this matter which is a first degree felony, I Rest My Case