Ex-MBC boss wants jury trial
The High Court sitting in Blantyre has set March 2 2023, to hear submissions from the State and the defence on the next course of action in a case where Malawi Broadcasting Corporation former director general Aubrey Sumbuleta is being accused of sexually assaulting female employees.
Sumbuleta raised a preliminary objection during the proceedings and sought that his trial should be done with a jury in place.
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to hear evidence and render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgement.
In Malawi, most cases are heard without a jury, but those on constitutional matters must be heard by three judges.
Wednesday, High Court Judge Ruth Chinangwa asked the State and the defence to serve each other with submissions on the jury application and whether the case should continue at the High Court or go to a magistrate court.
Sumbuleta’s lawyer David Kanyenda said the two sides will exchange submissions before appearing again in court on March 2.
“The matter was supposed to come for trial. However, the accused raised a preliminary objection, stating that this trial is supposed to be by jury and not by a judge sitting alone, in terms of Section 294, subsection 1 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code.
“The judge has directed that we file further submissions on that issue and on the question of whether this trial should be undertaken in the High Court and not in subordinate courts,” Kanyenda said.
Senior State Advocate Mathews Chione said the State was ready for commencement of the trial and that they had brought four witnesses to the court.
“We thought trial was commencing today because we thought all preliminary objections that the court had asked to be done were done.
“We did not think there would be any preliminary objection, but the defence has brought a preliminary objection that they want the case to be tried by a jury,” Chione said.
He added that the judge had asked why the case was being handled by the High Court and not a magistrate court.
“That is another issue, where the judge has asked us to go back and file arguments on why we want the case to be in the High Court,” Chione said.
Sumbuleta was arrested in April 2021 after the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) carried out investigations into alleged reports of sexual harassment of female employees at the State-controlled broadcaster.
The women who were allegedly sexually abused were already paid a total of K49 million by MBC as compensation, based on findings in the MHRC report.
Sumbuleta denies the charges.