August 25, 2017 By Michael Bockarie
AdvocAid’s Executive Director, Simitie Lavaly, on Wednesday 23 August, 2017, engaged members of the Human Rights Committee in Parliament on their organisation’s project to decriminalise or declassify certain offences as means of decongesting Correctional Centres across the country.
She made the call while making a statement at the presentation of the OSIWA funded Project entitled “DECRIMINALIZING POVERTY: Advocating for the Reform of Petty Offences in Sierra Leone’’ at Parliament Building, Tower Hill.
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The Executive Director further noted that the Project will take a three prong approach-to promote reform of legislation relating to petty offences, reduce custodian sentences for petty offences, and raise awareness about rights, legislation and impact of Criminalizing Petty Offences.
She said Petty Offences include minor criminal act which attract less severe punishment and are considered to be of a lower level of seriousness compared to felonies, adding that they found their origin from the English Laws. She said most of these laws are found in the Public Order Act of 1965, Criminal Procedure Act of 1965, Children and Young Person’s Act, Cap 44 Laws of Sierra Leone and some Local Council byelaws.
Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Executive Director, Ibrahim Tommy, told the Parliamentary Sub-Committee members that there is need to review those laws to make sure that citizens of Sierra Leone have access to justice.
He said the aim of the project is not to encourage loitering, indiscipline or corruption in society, but to declassify some of those laws.
Mr. Tommy noted that it is not wise for government to spend huge resources to prosecute a police officer or nurse for receiving Le 10,000 bribes, adding that it would be better to use an administrative means to handle such matters.
Hon. Habib Munda from Kenema Districts said he appreciated the effort of the two human rights organisation, adding that they have created a difference in the lives of their people. He agreed with CARL Executive Director that the cost of running the correctional centres is a burden on government, hence the need to decongest them.
Hon. Tommy Tucker from Kono District said they are aware that government is spending a lot of money on people who are not supposed to be in Correctional Centres, noting that in the case of loitering, there should be a specific time from which unauthorised people are not allowed to venture certain areas, so that a thief would not take advantage.
Hon. Dan Y. Sesay from Bombali District suggested for the establishment of two types of Correctional Centres- one for the hard core criminals and the other for the petty offenders. Hon. Tamba Entochema also from Kono District and other members of the Human rights Committee supported the two human rights organisation’s view to review some of those laws dealing with Petty Crimes, but cautioned to do it with care.
The Human Rights Committee Chairman, Hon. Komba E. S. Boya, expressed his pleasure to have has the two human rights organisations present their project.