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CARL justifies $100,000 UNDP grant scheme

October 7, 2019

By Patrick Jaiah Kamara

CARL’s, Ibrahim Tommy making presentation at the confab

The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) together with its partners, has held a national conference at the Sierra Lighthouse resort, where they told participants about the progress and challenges in the implementation of  the bail regulation 2017.

In December last year, CARL signed $100,000 grant agreement with the United Nations Development Programme’s Rule of Law section, with support from the US State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs to undertake a project aimed at supporting the Sierra Leone Judiciary in the implementation of the Bail Regulation.

The right group was also joined by two other organisations-Prison Watch Sierra Leone and Humanist Watch Salone -to support the implementation of the scheme.

To effectively monitor the implementation of the regulation, CARL and its partners trained and assigned court monitors to magistrates’ courts in 14 districts, excluding Falaba and Karene to observe and collect data on the adjudication of bail applications.

While speaking yesterday at the conference,Executive Director of CARL, Ibrahim Tommy said since the beginning of the year, they have produced two editions of ‘Justice Watch’ bulletin, which captures their key findings regarding the implementation of the regulation.

He said they have been able to monitor 3,122 cases in which 2918 were male representing 95.2%, while 204 were female.

He noted that their data shows that larceny was the most prevalent cases with 749 followed by sexual offence cases, which accounted for 494-a situation the Director says is threatening the existence of ‘ our young girls’.

He noted that their data also shows that more magistrates in the provinces are granting bail than those in the Western Urban area because the offences are generally minor.

“We have more serious offences in Freetown. All jungle cases, major sexual offences are committed here. So here in Freetown, magistrates are less willing to grant bail. But we have captured that as not being in compliance with the bail regulation. And this is the reason, the jurisdiction of the magistrate court; they have the power to grant bail in respect of any offences except for murder, treason, robbery with aggravation among others,” he said.

He said magistrate across the country have been granting bail to accused persons irrespective of legal representation and that nearly 52% of those arraigned in court were put on bail and that 48% were denied bail, thus applauding the Judiciary for adhering to the regulation.

Earlier, Executive Director of Legal Aid Board, Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles said they can’t wait to get the data gathered on the implementation of the bail regulation.

She said issues of overcrowding in prisons, missing files, and absences of witnesses among others, were obstacles to the justice system in the country.

Meanwhile, keynote speaker, Justice Komba Kamanda said in 2015, the Judiciary took a bold step to address the perennial issues surrounding bail, which led to the existence of bail and sentencing regulation.

He noted that it is now the approach of the leadership of the Judiciary that bail should not be used as a weapon of punishment, but rather a process meant to secure the attendance of witnesses and to preserve the sanctity of the proceedings.

“It should no longer be used as a tool for injustice. The liberty of the individual must be preserved and as such if the accused is to be deprived of his/her liberty, it must be for a very serious reasons not merely to say he/she is a flight risk, or will interfere with witnesses or the offence charged is serious,” he assured.

He reiterated that the granting of bail should be the ‘norm and not the exception’, and that the refusal of bail must be the exception, thus noting that Section 3(2) of the bail regulation must apply by all.

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