January 19, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Magistrate Manuela Harding, presiding at the Freetown Magistrates’ Court No. 6 at the main Law Courts building on Siaka Stevens Street, Friday (16 January) threatened to imprison people who accompany litigants to her court, thus crowding the tiny courtroom.
The magistrate was speaking no soon she entered the congested courtroom, although few cases were due to be mentioned.
“I have warned several times that if you don’t have a case in my court don’t come into my court. Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus in the country in May 2014, the Chief Justice Umu Tejan Jalloh had warned against congestion in courtrooms but it is seems people don’t want to obey,” the senior magistrate said. “I will start sending people to jail, maybe that will help complement efforts in the fight against the Ebola virus disease.”
President Ernest Bai Koroma imposed a public state of emergency last year as part of measures to break the chain of infection in the country, which has registered the highest number of Ebola cases among the three worst hit countries in West Africa.
Judicial authorities also advised against crowded courtrooms as relatives and friends more often than not cram tiny courtrooms to show solidarity with persons in conflict with the law or seeking redress.
However, the magistrate is unlikely to make good her threat because courts hearings are by law open to the public, unless otherwise stated.