January 25, 2017
Executive Director of Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles has noted that the scheme was overwhelmed with complaints from people seeking legal service through the Board’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Service. “Our offices are full to overflowing by 9 o’clock in the morning and this is putting a lot of pressure on us. People struggle to find space in our office, even corridors are cramped with those waiting to access our ADR service,” she said.
The ADR Officer, Reverend Bob-Kandeh said they always mediate an average of 13 to 15 complaints per day.
“We mediate a vast array of cases a day. I mediated fourteen complaints by the closed of business today. They range from benefit claim to wage, maintenance, estate, family and marital matters’
Reverend Bob- kandeh also disclosed that the ADR service received at least fifteen complaints from members of the public per day.
“We received a complaint from Kambia and we had to refer it to our Port Loko office,” he said.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said confidence in the quality of service provided by the Board’s ADR was growing in leaps and bounds and attributed the development to the fact that the service was free and speedy.
“We mediate complaints in a matter of hours or days. We reconcile the parties unlike what obtains in the courts. We have resolved matters that have taken years in the courts,” he said.
According to Ms. Carlton-Hanciles, the police and the courts were referring matters to the Board for mediation.
“We have both police and a Magistrate court from Bo referring matters to us in a single week. Our message on matters the police should not be handling is gradually sinking down and this is increasing the pressure on us. The police are gradually shying away from matters relating to debt and land because it has been made clear that they should not be handling them,” she said.
She also disclosed that the Board was under pressure from those who were having problems with their lawyers or can no longer afford to pay for legal services.
“As we speak, some 150 former employees of the African Minerals are requesting legal assistance from the scheme even though they have a lawyer,” she noted.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said the Board will be establishing a second ADR service in the Freetown office to cope with the ever increasing numbers seeking the service.
Meanwhile, Ms. Carlton-Hanciles has continued his call on the judiciary and the police to join the Board in reducing the prison population.
“We are still struggling to address the overcrowding in our prisons and cells. I am deeply concerned about the state of affairs and would therefore like to call on the judiciary and the police to take the necessary steps to reduce the remand population in our detention facilities across the country,” she called.