…As more than 400 languish in prison
August 6, 2015
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board has made a passionate appeal for adequate funds to enable them assist indigent persons in need of justice in the length and breadth of the country.
Mrs. Claire Carlton-Hanciles, who was speaking yesterday at a strategic planning workshop hosted by the board, said more than 400 inmates are on remand across the country, adding that a good number of Sierra Leoneans, especially those in rural areas cannot access justice because they are poor.
She said the board would “enter into cooperation agreements with legal practitioners” while paralegals would be assign to all 149 chiefdoms to assist in local justice dispensation.
The Legal Aid Board played host to at least 50 participants yesterday in Freetown as part of a strategic plan for the next five years, with strategic guidance provided by Dr. Memunatu Pratt, head of Peace and Conflict Department at Fourah Bay College and change management consultant.
Established by the Legal Aid Act in 2002, the Legal Aid Board has a strategic aim of providing free legal assistance to indigent Sierra Leoneans, as part of efforts to ensure access to justice to a large section of society.
According to the executive director, their core values include to entrench social justice, uphold respect for people, and to be accountable for their actions, among others, while their planned activities include conducting a public perception survey on the effectiveness of legal aid and mapping legal aid service providers and potential beneficiaries, to name a few.
Participants at the workshop produced a draft strategic plan, in line with the board’s core value of building partnerships and interfacing with the community.
Chairperson at the workshop, Hon. Justice Nicholas Brown-Marke underscored the need for planning as such guarantees success. He said legal aid entails advise secured by persons in need of justice prior to litigation, and representation in court, adding that closure within a reasonable time frame was critical to the scheme.
Also, chairperson of the Legal Aid Board, Justice Adeliza Showers said the board needed time to plan for the next five years as they were already inundated by requests from the public in quest of legal aid. Thus, she maintained that though a relatively new institution, there was urgent need to cascade the structure and activities of the board across the country.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ibrahim Bangura of Access to Security Programme and Justice pledged financial support to the board, commencing with a baseline survey and mapping of legal aid actors and potential beneficiaries.
“Our business is to help government succeed in making available justice to its people; we will ensure we have a strategic plan that will serve the test of time,” said Dr. Bangura.