By Yusufu S. Bangura
Executive Director, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tommy, last Friday told newsmen that if the reviewed Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) is passed into law, it would help reduce overcrowding in correctional facilities across the county.
With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), CARL organized a-two-day retreat at New Brookfield’s Hotel in Freetown with the Legislative Committee of Parliament on the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) draft amendment bill.
“If the reviewed Criminal Procedure Act is passed into law, it would have many positive effects on the lives of people because it would reduce overcrowding in the correctional facilities across the county. Also, would reduce the period used to try criminal matters in court and better regulate the powers that police have to arrest and detain people for everyone to enjoy his or her civil liberty,” he said.
Tommy said they organized the retreat with parliamentarians because over the years, they have been working with stakeholders to make sure that they change or review the Criminal Procedure Act 1965.
“CPA of 1965 is the law that the judiciary use for all criminal matters in the country and it gives police the right to arrest, detain and charge matters to court for trial and it describes the procedure of the matter,” he added.
Tommy continued that the law has plenty provisions, but they realised that the provisions have become obsolete.
He said changes have taken place at regional and international levels and that they wanted to introduce such reforms in Sierra Leone CAP.
The CARL Executive Director said they wanted to change so many provisions in the CPA 1965.
He said have looked into the area of police who have powers to arrest and detain in a way that was not regulated as it supposed to be.
He said while the old law says police should arrest and detain person for 3 or 10 days before charging the matter to court,they have proposed for it to be reduced from 3 to 2 days and from 10 to 7days.
He added that if someone is convicted of any crime, the sentence are very limited, wherein they either impose fine or send that person to jail with no alternative sentence to reign fine or jail, a development he said leads to the overcrowding in correctional centres.
He said in the CPA draft amendment bill, they wanted to make sure that there was alternative sentencing in the new CPA.
He called on authorities to be committed to the CPA draft amendment bill because after the two days retreat, the final vision would be presented to the Office of Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
He also called on them to take it seriously for them to have the final bill that would be presented to parliament for it to be passed into law.
He said if they really care about everyone in the country, they have to pass the reviewed CPA into law because it would introduce a lot of changes in the criminal justice sector.
“As part from this project, we would continue to talk about the on-going effort, but ones we have the new law appreciated, we would use a lot of resources to engage the media, and community people for them to understand what the new provisions are” he said.
In his speech, Chairman Legislative Committee in Parliament, Hon Marray Conteh thanked CARL, UNDP and Justice Browne-Mark for the relentless work they have been doing over the years to make sure that they review the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965.
He said as representatives of the people, they were charged with the mandate to make laws, represent them and provide oversight. He said they deem the process very important because it’s going to help them broaden their understanding of the reviewed CPA and with that information they would be able to make right decision and pass law that would stand the test of time.
“I believe that whatever we are going to discuss during the review would aid the debating process as soon as the bill reaches parliament. I believe we have come a long way and I believe we are going to reach the finish line. As I always say governance is an issue of acting participation and total involvement of key stakeholders as we all need each other in the process and I believe that when we put our country first in platforms like this, we would be able to make decisions that would be in the interest of our people,” he said.
During the two days retreat, Justice Nicholas Browne-Marke gave general overview of the CPA draft amendment bill and presented it to the legislative committee of parliament.