In a recent ruling under Section 19 of the Sexual Offences Act of 2012, as amended, Justice Momoh Jah Stevens has discharged two minors accused of sexually penetrating a 14-year-old child. The minors, referred to by the pseudonyms Bendu and Gassium Bendu, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The case, brought forward by state prosecutor M.P. Sesay, alleged that the incident occurred on February 18, 2022, in Freetown, Western Area District. Despite the gravity of the allegations, the state failed to produce sufficient evidence or witnesses to substantiate the claims in court.

During the proceedings, Taylor Younge, representing the accused on behalf of the Legal Aid Board, argued for the discharge of the minors due to the prolonged nature of the case and the lack of concrete evidence. Younge emphasized that the case had been pending without progress, which warranted a dismissal.

Justice Stevens, in his ruling, concurred with Younge’s argument, citing the state’s inability to proceed with the case effectively. He clarified that the discharge was not equivalent to an acquittal, meaning the minors could be re-charged if the prosecution managed to gather adequate evidence or present witnesses in the future.

The case highlights the challenges faced by the justice system in handling sexual offences involving minors, particularly regarding evidence collection and witness testimony. The discharge, based on procedural grounds, underscores the necessity for thorough and prompt investigative processes to ensure that justice is served effectively.

Justice Stevens’ decision to discharge the minors under Section 19 of the Sexual Offences Act of 2012, as amended by the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act of 2019, has drawn attention to the critical importance of evidence in prosecuting such sensitive cases. The ruling also serves as a reminder of the legal principle that the accused remain innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The prosecution’s option to refile charges if new evidence emerges keeps the door open for future legal action, maintaining a balance between the rights of the accused and the pursuit of justice for the alleged victim.