Court frees 13 arrested beggars

After police charged them for loitering, other offences

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By Sanna Camara

Magistrate Muhammed Bojang of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court on Thursday acquits 13 beggars after a trial process that followed their arrest, charge and arraignment by the Police.

In a packed court room today, many of the charged beggars pleaded that they have been driven by poverty, while others claim they are merely practicing a custom that compels mothers of twins and multiple babies to seek alms to fend off sicknesses from their babies.

Some women breastfed, others had their children strapped to their backs; handicapped among them sat on dry mahogany benches and others on their wheel chairs in the court room barely measuring 5 meters square.

The court room

Filled with stench of mixed sweat that is reinforced by the heat from the afternoon summer sun and spread by the overhead ceiling fan, each of the beggars took turns to plea for mercy before the suit-wearing dark-skinned magistrate delivered his judgment.

One of the men leaned against the back of his wheelchair in the absence of normal backbone to support an erect sitting posture. For lack of a space, another stood by the entrance gazing through his defected left eyeball at the magistrate sitting, perspiring and scribbling down notes on sheets of paper laid out on a polished wooden desk.

A fair coloured female clerk stood directly in front of the magistrate wearing black robes and a headscarf she used to cover her mouth and nose. She has a file before her as her eye moves accordingly from one direction of responses of accused persons to another.

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Their stories

“I beg to earn a living,” a blind lady in her forties told the magistrate through an interpreter.

“I used to sell goats to earn a living until an abrupt sickness robbed me of this capability. Now, I am reduced to a beggar. Yet there is family to take care of,” the man leaning in his wheelchair said boldly as he adjusts himself between phrases and sentences.

“Both of my legs and left hand are handicapped. I cannot do any meaningful work to earn a living except to beg,” said a woman.

“I do not know that there is a law against begging. I have triplets and custom demands that I beg for their salvation,” a healthy looking woman, probably in her late thirties said.

Magistrate’s judgment

“You people are truthful persons,” magistrate Bojang began reading his judgment to the beggars. “I have heard your mitigations and it is well understood. Prosecutors say none of you had any prior convictions….”

He cautioned the accused persons before discharging them, saying: “If anyone of you appears before this court again, the law will be hard on you.”

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