November 24, 2017 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Executive Director of Legal Aid Board Sierra Leone, Madam Fatmata Carlton-Hanciles, has disclosed that the board was working with the Heads of Peace and Conflict and Law Departments at Fourah Bay College (FBC), University of Sierra Leone, to introduce full time courses for paralegals in the university curriculum.
Madam Carlton-Hanciles made the disclosure yesterday during a well-attended two -day consultative conference on legal aid provision in Sierra Leone, at the Civil Service Training College, Tower Hill in Freetown.
She observed that paralegals have a great role to play in rendering justice and maintenance of peace in the country.
She noted that not all matter should be taken to court, adding that with knowledgeable, trained and qualified paralegals in the country, many minor cases could be settled out of the courtroom.
She said before the Legal Aid Board came into existence, there were lots of legal aid efforts in Sierra Leone championed by a good number of organisations like female societies, community based and civil society organisations.
She observed that it is one of government’s responsibilities to provide free legal service to the poor and venerable in the country.
She said the conference was to chat the way forward on how they could work together with organisations within the framework of the laws, and that when the board started work there was serious misunderstanding because their work was not harmonised.
The executive Director however noted that in the past two years of their existence, they have been able to be present in all nook and cranny of the country, adding that the board was established to provide legal education, legal representation, legal assistance as well as meeting and solving communities’ problems.
She said they would soon start to certify all legal aid provider organisations in the country as stipulated in the 2012 Legal Aid Board Act, disclosing that they have been able to identify over ninety legal aid provider organisations operating in the country.
In her remarks as Chairperson, Madam Memunatu Pratt, Head of Peace and Conflict Department at Fourah Bay College (FBC), University of Sierra Leone, said the conference was important because it dealt with problems affecting the justice system in Sierra Leone.
“We are living in a country where access to justice is very challenging which is why conference of such is very important,” she said and called on participants from across the country to make valuable contributions.
Also speaking Edward Yokie, Registrar at the Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organization (SLANGO), said the right to representation is the cornerstone of a just society where all people including the poor and vulnerable have equal access to legal and judiciary service.
He said the inclusion of access to justice by the United Nations as part of its post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals 16, showed that access to justice can be seen as an enabler of development and as a criterial development objective in its own right.
“As advocates for access to justice, we need to take advantage of the opportunity this moment in history, as we stand in partnership with the Legal Aid Board,” he said.