November 22, 2021
By Yusufu S. Bangura
With support from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Legal Aid Board (LAB), has on Friday, 19 November, organized two days training workshop for staff across the country on Legal Laws and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism.
Welcoming staff at the training, Francis Gabbidon said they organized the training for paralegals, because the number of people going to ADR department was increasing and that they wanted them to know the laws.
He said ADR is an American mechanism which started in the late 1990s and later went to England where it started slowly because there were many reluctant people dealing with things that were more useful in litigation.
Lawyer Gabbidon said ADR is a mix flavour, because it takes the law to settle people’s dispute, that is why it very necessary for them to meet and discuss the way forward so that when paralegals return to their various locations they would have amicable well-equity knowledge on how they handle their matters.
He said the mandate of the ADR is to handle civil matters like, marital affairs, children’s affairs and some domestic affairs, but not criminal matters because it is not their mandate.
He added that ADR caters for poor people who cannot afford to hire lawyers to fight for them, adding that the public has confidence in their work as they now escape the police to report matters to them.
“I want to advise you all to control your method of talking, your behaviour and approach when dealing with civil matters, if you want the good name at all times. Please, if any of your relatives have issues with another person make sure you take family business apart if you want to save your neck. Let us be mindful that as ADR officials we don’t have the mandate to arrest, detain or sentence anyone, but to negotiate with family members by putting things in order,” he said.
Executive Director of Legal Aid Board, Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles, thanked OSIWA for supporting them to bringing their staff together to train them on civil matters, adding that the training will help cut down the case load in court on civil matters.
She said over the years they have been able to settle a lot of issues among poor people because they deal with the masses whose cases are mostly minors, adding that LAB handles those cases through the ADR mechanism, which is provided for in the LAB Act.
She continued that ADR alone will be able to help over 50,000 people, because they have civil lawyers and LAB is everywhere in the country.
She added that they were trying to introduce paralegal as a professional course in the University of Sierra Leone.
She noted that LAB has received tablets from UNICEF which the staff will use to collect data across the nation and link them up with their system.
“Come 2022, we will have more lawyers that will cover all the areas that have judges because we have asked the Ministry of Finance to support us with fund which would enable us to take more client at a time than we are doing now. In the area of sexual penetration matters, we are appealing to young people to behave themselves especially when it festive season because we already have thousands of young people in prison and we don’t want the number to increase,” she said.