July 6, 2017
Photo: A court clerk shows off the Samsung mobile apps at the Law Court Siaka Stevens Street central Freetown © UNDP Sierra Leone
The Sierra Leone Judiciary has, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), launched a new mobile app to fast track court cases in one of the world’s most over-stretched judiciaries.
With just a few taps, the user-friendly app allows entering of new cases into the database through the app and facilitates tracking of them until they are finalised.
The new mobile app is the first of its kind in Sierra Leone. It will be used at all levels of the Judiciary – including by the Chief Justice – to monitor case progress in a speedy and efficient manner.
The Sierra Leonean technology company iDT Labs, which developed the app, says it makes it “incredibly easy” for the courts to get rid of the paper-based filing system and gradually transition to an effective electronic case management system.
Aminata Conteh has been a clerk in the Freetown Magistrate Court No. 3 for close to a decade now. She knows all too well the challenges that came with the old case management system.
Between the time Aminata receives case files until judgements are given by the Magistrate, files often go missing.
Part of the problem, Magistrate Boi Hannah Bonnie says is the old-fashioned and improper case management system of manually assigning cases that is negatively impacting the dispensation of justice in significant ways.
“The beauty of the new Justice App is that it will solve challenges with missing files,” says Magistrate Bonnie. She further noted that, “The app will put us on our toes now that we know the Chief Justice – with just a click—can track progress on cases from the day they are committed until the case is closed.”
Sierra Leone, with seven million people, has one of the world’s most over-stretched judiciaries where court cases can take years, leading to a huge backlog and long periods of pre-trial remand.
The UNDP INL Project Manager, Louise Simonsen Aaen, hopes that the new Justice App will gradually help the Judiciary to implement proper case handling and management across the country. She noted that the app is part of UNDP’s support to the Sierra Leone Judiciary, which helps to find viable and cost-efficient solutions to the challenges they face.
The new mobile app is the first of its kind in West Africa. It is now being piloted in the Magistrate and High Courts in Freetown and the Northern Headquarter town of Makeni.
Over the next year, UNDP will support the Judiciary in further deepening acceptance and use of the app in the judicial system, including expanding its use to the Ministry of Justice and the Correctional Services.
The development of the app was funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotic and Law Enforcement Affairs through the UNDP project, “Promoting Transparency in Sierra Leone’s Judiciary”. The project is implemented in partnership with the Sierra Leone Judiciary.