December 16, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
A survey conducted by the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) has exposed series of lapses that hinder the administration of justice in four chiefdom local courts in the Bombali District, northern Sierra Leone.
“No court official, besides the chiefdom police, has been paid salaries or received any type of allowance since the judiciary took over the local courts in 2011,” the report reveals.
The survey reveals the absence of job security for local court chairmen and the lack of commitment among their staff members.
The survey reveals that: “There is no written contract which clearly defines their [local court administrators] employment status with the judiciary. For this reason, court officials, to a large extent, consider themselves and function as mere volunteers rather than formal employees of the court.”
CARL called for the need to reactivate the recruitment process of all court officials by the judiciary, which had stalled because of the Ebola epidemic.
According to the survey which focuses on the satisfaction level of female local court users in four chiefdoms, logistics for the running of the court has been a challenge for a very long time.
“Local court clerks improvise just to ensure that the court is up and running. The team of researchers observed that most of the courts were rundown buildings which were not properly kept. There were broken pieces of furniture in the court rooms which did not seem to have been repaired for ages,” the survey reveals.
The survey further exposes interference of Paramount Chiefs and some members of Parliament in proceedings before the local court, especially in land cases.
“Where local court officials refuse to be unduly influenced by chiefs, it was reported that some politicians resort to intimidation,” the report adds.