A member of the Sierra Leone Police force attached to the Operational Support Division, and on trial at the high court here for reportedly killing a soldier of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces, recently pleaded guilty to the crime.

But only after prosecutors, on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021, amended the original charge of murder to manslaughter.

OSD Mohamed Kanu has been in jail at the Freetown Male Correctional Centre for six years now, as the case against him is heard in court, according to court records.

OSD, the branch of police Mohamed Kanu was part of, is a specialized paramilitary unit within SLP – trained in riots control, dignitaries protection, et cetera.

In 2015, court records show that Mohamed Kanu was charged with murder – after prosecutors alleged that on March 18 of that year, he shot and killed a soldier, Salifu Turay.

The incident reportedly occurred in Freetown, the nation’s capital. When the matter was called for a scheduled hearing on Sept. 6, State’s Prosecutor Elizabeth Tity Jalloh wanted it to proceed despite an incomplete jury.

“My lord, I apply for this court to proceed with the trial, with the remaining 11 jurors, based on the perpetual absence of one of the jurors,” Jalloh tells the court. Komba Kanu of Legal Aid Board, representing the defendant, supported the prosecutor.

“My lord, I have no objection to the application of the prosecution. In fact, I had even already filed an application for this trial to proceed with the remaining 11 jurors; considering the time the accused had been in custody,” Komba Kanu says.

The defense attorney then said, “at this point, my lord, the accused wishes to say something.”

Mohamed Kanu then told the court that he wanted a lesser charge.

“My lord, I want a lesser charge,” the accused said.

The prosecutor didn’t however object to Mohamed Kanu’s request. Instead, she made an oral motion for an amendment of the charge.

“My lord, I now respectfully apply for an amendment of the charge on the indictment of the state against Mohamed Kanu. And I apply that on the face of the indictment, on the statement of offense, that the word murder be deleted, and be replaced with the word manslaughter. Which now reads manslaughter instead of murder” Jalloh, the prosecutor, said.

In Support of her application, the prosecutor tells presiding Judge Musu Kamara of the Judiciary of Sierra Leone that she relied on Section 148(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act No.32 of 1965.

There’re two relevant subsections – one and two – to Section 148 of the CPA which the prosecutor was referring to.

Section 148 subsection (1) of the CPA reads: “Where, before trial upon indictment or at any stage of such trial, it appears to the [c]ourt that the indictment is defective, the [c]ourt shall make such order for the amendment of the indictment as the [c]ourt thinks necessary to meet the circumstances of the case, unless having regard to the merits of the case, the required amendments cannot be made without injustice. All such amendment shall be made upon such term as the [c]ourt shall seem just.”

And Section 148, subsection (2), states: “Where an indictment is so amended, a note of the order for amendment shall be endorsed on the indictment, and the indictment shall be treated for the purposes of all proceedings in connection therewith as having been filed in the
amended form.”

What the prosecutor, though, didn’t argue in the courtroom was whether the initial murder charge was defective – since subsections one and two are inextricably bound.

The judge however granted the application, and the prosecutor’s oral motion for amendment thus, paving the way for Mohamed Kanu’s guilty plea on the reduced manslaughter charge. The judge didn’t immediately pass sentence on Mohamed Kanu. But adjourned the matter to Sept. 27 – to allow the accused an opportunity to reconsider.

“I am going to adjourn this matter, so you will have chance to think over your decision to plea guilty to the manslaughter charge. Maybe, you may want to change your mind,” the judge told the accused.