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CARL urges gov’t to provide more funds to the judiciary

July 24, 2015 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara

The Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) has urged the government of Sierra Leone to provide more funds to the judiciary to enable them perform their sacred functions effectively and efficiently as there was more than 300 remand prisoners in Freetown alone awaiting indictment, with some having been remanded for more than eight years.

While launching a report titled, ‘Harrowing Trials, Time to Bring Closure on Prolonged Trials for Accused Persons in Sierra Leone’s Criminal Justice System’, CARL’s Executive Director, Ibrahim Tommy, said it was time for the government to avail to the judiciary financial and logistical support it badly needs, adding that the judiciary doesn’t enjoy a subvented status.

“CARL calls on the state to provide more resources to the justice system, particularly the judiciary to be able to carry out its functions effectively and efficiently. CARL wishes to remind the state of its primary responsibility to provide the resources needed to address the justice needs of the people,” urged Tommy, quoting from the report.

He noted that the report would inform the government that the judiciary has a job to do and that the state must ensure adequate resources are available to the latter to carry on their work efficiently without delay. He said some fundamental issues that were responsible for delay in trial include the burden of witnesses financing their own transportation to and from court, with many staying miles away.

According to the report, funding shortfall grossly impinges on the recruitment of more judges and magistrates, establishment of new courts, effective supervision, proper coordination between judges and the Law Officers Department, which has apparently caused accused persons to spend long time in detention.

“We are making a case for the state to increase funding to the judiciary so that they can recruit more judges and modernize the way it works,” said Tommy, adding that time management was also a perennial issue facing the judiciary.

The report further adds that the many challenges faced by the judiciary do not help fair and expeditious justice delivery, as they seriously undermine the role of the courts and the much needed independence of the judiciary.

He said cracks in the system could lead to injustice and render access to justice a ‘tall order’.

The CARL Executive Director stated that preliminary investigations at some magistrate courts take a long time before they are committed to the High Court, thus causing folks to stay in indention for a very long time.

The report, however, acknowledges efforts by the leadership of the judiciary and the Justice Sector Coordinating Office to help increase access to justice for indigent accused persons.

Through ongoing special criminal sessions in Makeni, Kenema and Kono, it is hoped that at least 1,000 backlog cases which have been held up in the system for several years will be disposed of over the next months, he said and added that the session is being funded by Access to Security and Justice Programme (ASJP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

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