Sierra Leone News: SL judiciary receives UNDP boost

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Rule of Law Project, has supported the judiciary of Sierra Leone to hold two special sessions of the High Court in Kono and Moyamba with the ultimate aim to complete all criminal cases that have been committed to the High Courts by Magistrate Courts in the two judicial districts.
The aim is to ensure that citizens in the country are fully educated and informed on the operations of the judiciary, and that public concerns are channeled through the office for the full attention of the leadership.
Since its inception in the early 19th century, the judiciary of Sierra Leone had no direct interlocking relationship with the public – that is, an office that will serve as an interface between the public and the leadership.
The issue of judicial reforms and challenges faced by the judiciary, though enormous, were never in the public domain and because the citizens were not informed and educated about the operations of the judiciary of Sierra Leone, public distrust rose.
To build this long existing gap between the judiciary and the people, the United Nations Development Program has funded the creation of the Public Relations Office and will fully support the operations of the office for two years.
According to the spokesperson of the judiciary of Sierra Leone, Moses Lamin Kamara, UNDP has been very resourceful in ensuring that the judiciary of Sierra Leone achieve its purpose of creation, explaining that in 2016 from the 14th to the 26th November, UNDP supported the operation of a special High Court session in Moyamba to deal with a total of 73 pending criminal cases committed to the High Court in that Judicial District and same was replicated in Port Loko in January 2017.
The UN agency has recently provided funds for the running of special High Court sessions in Kono. “Since the funds have been made available, Chief Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm has assigned a Court of Appeal Judge who is the resident Judge in Kenema to stay for a month in Kono; and the resident Judge in Bo will stay in Moyamba to ensure that we have zero committal cases in those Judicial Districts”, Kamara told this medium.
Besides supporting the past and present special sessions of the High Court in Moyamba, Port Loko and Kono, the UN agency with funds from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (U.S Department of State) has also ensured that the Sierra Leone judiciary goes digital through the introduction of a mobile application also known as the Electronic Management that is currently being piloted in ten Courts dealing with criminal matters.
He maintained that the mobile application will help the judiciary to have an effective database of its criminal cases; enable the leadership to know the current status of each and every case irrespective of where and to whom the cases have been assigned; and will effectively address the issue of missing files and help track repeated offenders. This will be helpful to judges and magistrates when it comes to sentencing.
Kamara said that an outstanding and most key support the institution has received from UNDP is the introduction of new Bail and Sentencing guidelines.
“If we are talking about consistency in bail and sentencing in Sierra Leone, or a system one that will ensure that people who may later be found innocent of an offence, are not unnecessarily kept in prison and that those who had committed offences but are not threat to community do not remain in prison unnecessarily; and one that will address the problem of overcrowding in correctional centers and reduce government expenditure on prisoners, then we need to be thankful to the UNDP,” he recalled.
He furthered that the UN agency continued it support to the judiciary by conducting a three day intensive “Training of Trainers Workshop for judges and magistrates on the applicability of the Bail and Sentencing Guidelines” noting that the training covered five modules including Bail and Sentencing by Justice Browne-Marke (JSC), Introduction to Capacity Development by Justice Eku E. Roberts (JSC), Judgment Writing and Decision Making by Justice Reginald Fynn (JA), Judicial Ethics and Communications were handled by the two UNDP independent consultants James Numan and Joel Levesque.
By Alhaji M. Kamara
Wednesday July 12, 2017.