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Bar Association and Legal Aid discuss access to justice

July 27, 2016 

Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA), Mr. Julian Cole, has called on the Sierra Leone Legal Board to assist with finding a solution to issues of bail processing and approval.  Cole noted that those charged with approving bail impose their own conditions, which pose obstacles to securing bail for accused persons.

Cole registered the concern when the new executive of the Bar Association met with management of the Legal Aid Board on Tuesday. Cole lauded the Legal Aid Board for the significant progress in promoting access to justice and commitment shown by its lawyers in handling a lot of cases in court.

President of the Association, Ms. Rhoda Souffian-Kargbo Nuni, said her Association would build on the partnership between the two institutions. “If you need any assistance from us, please let us know,” she said. “When the Board succeeds, the [legal] profession can take some of the credit.”

Mrs Nuni lauded the Board for employing members of the Association, adding that her Association would do all within their power to ensure that those contracted to handle legal aid cases deliver on the terms of the contract. In addition, the Association would be ready to take part in the training of paralegals, she assured.

Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Mrs. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles, lauded the partnership with the Association. She informed the new Executive that another set of lawyers from the Association would be contracted to service legal aid cases.

Mrs Carlton-Hanciles briefed the Association on efforts at expanding access to justice with the opening of offices upcountry and recruitment of six lawyers. She said the Board had secured funds from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) for the recruitment of 35 Paralegals who will be deployed across the country to provide legal advice and monitor Local Courts and the Police.

She said the Board was putting together a training manual for Paralegals. “We will need you to be part of the training team. The Board is working with the Judiciary to set-up the Judicial and Legal Service Training institute,’ she said.

She lauded lawyers of the Law Officers Department for issuing indictments to accused persons who have been on remand for a long time.

Mrs Carlton-Hanciles said the Legal Aid Guide would be gazetted after it had been finalised by the Board and partners. “We will be organising a workshop by the first week of August to finalise the Guide,” she disclosed.

She also spoke on a key mandate of the Board, which involves accrediting all legal aid providers in the country. She hinted that the Board would be embarking on the exercise after completing ongoing consultations, adding that renewal would be done on a regular basis, determined by the Board.

Speaking on some of the challenges facing access to justice, Mrs Carlton-Hanciles said accused persons are handcuffed while making the long sea journey from Bonthe to Matru Jong, where the Magistrate Court sits.

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