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Corruption and the Justice System

By Abu Bakarr Turay

In every country the Justice system exists to ensure a fair treatment of citizens and that the Rule of law and legal system is effective. The status of the justice system in a country is largely dependent on the quality of the government and its commitment to the fight against corruption. For instance crimes and their commensurate punishment are enforced by the justice system and without these measures, there can be no equity, no inclusivity, no fairness and no lasting social and economic development” hence a fertile breeding ground for corruption.

The term “Corruption” is used to explain a range of illicit or illegal activities. Although there is no universal definition as to what constitutes corrupt behaviour, the most prominent definitions share a common emphasis upon the abuse of public power or position for personal advantage. “Justice System” on the other hand refers to the governmental entity that is charged with enforcing the laws of the land with integrity and veracity.

The relationship between corruption and the Justice system is critical especially in a developing country like Sierra Leone. According to Reginald Fynn Jr. ESQ director of Intelligence, Investigation and Prosecution at the Anti- Corruption Commission “the present state of corruption and the justice system is more hypothetical and academic. Recent judgments are indicative that the judiciary takes corruption cases seriously and continuing to hand down firm judgment will send the correct signal that corruption is intolerable”.

 Corruption in any judicial system erodes the ability of the state and international community to tackle transnational crime and terrorism; diminishes trade, economic growth and human development; and, most importantly, it denies citizens impartial settlement of disputes with neighbours or the authorities. When the latter occurs, corrupt judiciaries fracture and divide communities by keeping alive the sense of injury created by unjust treatment and mediation. Judicial systems debased by bribery undermine confidence in governance by facilitating corruption across all sectors of government, starting at the helm of power. In so doing they send a blunt message to the people: in this country corruption is tolerated.

A good judiciary empowers citizen to speak out against corrupt practices and corrupt officials. Increased confidence in the system and just punishment for offenders cannot be guaranteed if the judicial system is flawed. .  A corruption free judiciary increases the confidence level of the citizens; confidence in the judges, lawyers, court clerks and associated with the judiciary.

Where corruption exists, the rule of law cannot flourish…Too many people fail to understand the impact of corruption on development and on prosperity. The victims exist in every developing and less developed country like Sierra Leone. More often citizens find themselves asking the question “if that which is meant to save now becomes that which kills where will the people run to in their quest for justice, peace and development”.

The relationship between corruption and the justice system is crucial to sustainable growth in Sierra Leone which is why strengthening the rule of law and intensifying the fight against corruption should be a major concern for the government and Sierra Leoneans in general. It is easy for corruption to thrive in a nation where the judiciary is blind and the government feels comfortable with things as they are.

 Sierra Leone is a country blessed with natural resources but the potential to become a middle income nation will be almost impossible if the justice system is corrupt. Decisions which are not in the national interest will be made and there will conflicts of interest between judges and those controlling the system.

Conclusively therefore one can safely say corruption and the legal system should not be cohabiting partners.  Where they are at ease with each other criminals are often let off lightly, or not imprisoned, people are wrongfully convicted and the sense of security is lost.

The Justice system should give hope to citizen not cynicism, optimism not pessimism and finally assurance not suspicion.