Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size Default Text Size
 
OOPS. Your Flash player is missing or outdated.Click here to update your player so you can see this content.
Featured Links:
Banner
ExpoNet
EXpoNet Services!
Banner
Subscribe Now
Subscribe Now.
What to expect of Paralegals with the Legal Aid Board PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joseph Dumbuya   
Friday, 10 February 2017 14:38

The Legal Aid Board took a giant step towards expanding access to justice by deploying thirty-five Paralegals around the country in December 2016. Thanks to support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) which will last for one year.

The addition brings to a total of forty-sixty the number of Paralegals on the staff of the scheme. This does not include volunteers. Prior to the addition, the Board had eleven full-time Paralegals - twoin the Western Area and nine in the three Regional Headquarter Towns.  It also had paralegal volunteers in Port Loko, Kambia and Kono.

The Board now has at least two paralegals in each of the twelve districts upcountry. The Western Urban has eight Paralegals while the WesternRural has five. Thismeans the Boardhas a presence in every district in the country. This isgood news for our clients - the poor and vulnerable - who face a lot of challenges accessing justice at both formal and informal level.

This is not good enough becauseSection 14 (2) of the Legal Aid Act 2012 provides that the 'Board shall appoint at least one Paralegal to each Chiefdom.'  I agree but they say the journey of a million miles starts with the crucial first step.

Now, what should people expect from our Paralegals?  Also, what support should they give Paralegals to ensure maximum benefit from the scheme? Section 14 (2) (a) of the Act provides that Paralegals 'provide advice, legal assistance and legal education to the Paramount Chief and the inhabitants of the Chiefdom,' while Section 14 (2) (b) provides that 'where appropriate to assist in diverting certain cases to the formal justice system.'

The Board's Paralegalsprovide Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service for minor offences which are of a non-criminal nature. They also work closely with the Police, prison officers, formal and informal courts including ADR services (ADR) provided by actors which arenot governed by the Local Court Act 2011. This includes suchADR services provided by Paramount Chiefs, Tribal Authorities, Religious and Women's Leaders and other Actors in the community.

Please note that the informal justice systems as defined in a study by the Danish Institute of Human Rights, based on a cooperation with the East Africa Law Society 'encompass the range of systems and mechanisms that are outside the ordinary courts and justice institutions and yet are trusted and used by people to resolve disputes and maintain social order. These include (i) those based in the traditional structure of village heads and chiefs, (ii) those based in religious structures and authorities, (iii) those based in the (local) administrative structures of government and (iv) those based on NGO promoted mediation schemes performed at community level by paralegals or village mediators.'

So, what are the Paralegals doing in your community? I must hasten to underline that my definition of Paralegal is consistent with the report by the Danish Institute for Human Rights, based on the East Africa Law Society in December 2011. The report defines Paralegals as: 'Persons, in general, are without a law degree, but possess the relevant skills and training to provide some legal services to individuals and groups in need of legal aid.'

Our Paralegals are among the most experienced in the field having trained and worked as Paralegals in their respective communities for several years. Also, they were resident in the community at the time they were recruited.

While thelegal services provided by Paralegals are limited to indigent adults, children, aged and retires, legal education is targeted at all and sundry. This is because an educated public on issues of law and the justice system will improve access to justice. Also, it will empower people to assert their rights while accessing the justice system.  More importantly, monitoring of rights issues at police stations andcorrectional centers will benefit all and sundry coming into contact with these justice sector institutions. These include rights of suspects and accused persons as provided for in the Constitution and International Human Rights Instruments.

Theyalso assess the condition of the cell, determine the number of suspects and accused persons held thereinas against the capacity of the facility and whether the detainees include children. This is because all thePolice Stationsin the country do not have a cell for children. In most cases child suspects are held in adult cells.

Additionally, they assesswhether arrest and detention of suspects meet constitutional provisions. They provide legal services where these provisions have been breached. This includes challenging detentions which go beyond periods provided by the constitution. They also assist suspects with securing bail, monitoring investigations and statement taking.

Recently, on Wednesday, February 1 to be exact, I was at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) headquarters on Pademba Road in Freetown to monitor a complaint filed by Parliament against one of Sierra Leone's leading human rights activists, Abdul Fatoma of the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI). I must confess I was impressed with the reception accorded me. I sat there listening to two police officers obtain statement from him and throughout the time I was satisfied with the manner it was conducted.

But the relationship is not always rosy. One of our new paralegals went to the Allen Town Police Station and was prevented from doing his work because the Police claimed they had not been informed of the visit. They further claimed that they were not aware of the work of the Board. You and I know this is far from the truth, more so for officers in the Western Area. The Board prides its relationship with justice sector institutions since its inception in May 2015. The Board had a partnership agreement with the Sierra Leone Police and the Sierra Leone Correction Service one month later in June.

Recently, Police officers poured scorn on one of our Paralegals for drawing attention to the fact that the police station has not got a cell for children and therefore cannot detain a child suspect who had been taken there by a high profile politician.

The visit to Correctional Centers by Paralegals has provided insights into prison conditions, prison population, remand inmates without indictmentsand related human rights issues. Through these visits, the Board was able to identify the so-called forgotten remand inmates. This includes those who have been on remand for up to eleven years in extreme cases. Some of who had served more time on remand thanthe maximum sentence for such offences if they were convicted.  
Also, they provide an accurate picture of accused persons without indictment. This information has helped the Board in engagements with the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice to ensure indictments were served on those concerned.

Prior to the opening of Magistrate Courts in every district in the country, accused persons will spends months or years behind bars waiting for  their cases to be heard in court.

The decision of the current Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Hon. Joseph Kamara to establish seventeen Magistrate and three High Courts around the country is worthy of mention. The impact has been immense. The Paralegals have also been able to provide accurate figures of prison population. This has enable the Board to self-assess in terms of efforts at decongesting correctional centers around the country. The Board has used this information to draw attention to the increases and thus proffered suggestions to reverse this trend by way of lessening the bail condition, shortening sentences especially for minor offences and referrals to institutions outside the criminal justice system.

The Paralegals have also been very active in the informal justice sector including the Alternative Dispute Resolution services provides by actors not governed by the Local Court Act 2011.  Therehave been a check on the excesses of actors providing Alternative Dispute Resolution services bothering on prohibitive fines, arrest and detention which are illegal, fees to visit crime scene anddisputed property and the treatment of women.

Expectedly, the relationship has not been smooth but a lot of progress has been made. For instance, there have been cases referred to the Board in Kenema by Paramount Chiefs in the Eastern Province. The Board in Kenema has mediated a matter between aCourt Chairman and a resident ofKailahun District.    

The Paralegals have made the most impact in this area. They have resolved an impressive number of community level problems which would have cost a lot of money and time were these matters taken to the formal or the local courts.

Author Joseph Dumbuya is the Registrar at the Sierra Leone Legal Aid Board

 

Editorial

2016 Global Peace Conference to be held in Freetown---as IPRA 50th Birthday confab ends in Istanbul

 

The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

Read more...

Business News

Four illegal fishing cases found in Sierra Leone in four days

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, April 20, 2017/ -- Four illegal fishing cases have been found during a joint surveillance mission conducted by Greenpeace (www.Greenpeace.org/Africa/en) and Sierra Leone fishery authorities. Two Chinese vessels and one Korean vessel have been arrested for infringements of Sierra Leone fishing legislation, including possessing or using illegal fishing nets on board, no visible marking and a lack of required paperwork, including log books and authorisation for unloading catch. Fishing authorities ordered the vessels to return to Freetown port for further investigation. A fourth vessel, owned by an Italian company, was found with four kilograms of shark fins on board. Though not illegal under Sierra Leonean laws, this is a clear violation of European Union (EU) fishing rules. This boat’s case will be taken further with relevant EU authorities.

In addition, more than 70 bags of shark carcasses were found on one of the Chinese vessels.

Read more...

Media News

44 Journalists in Beijing for China Development Studies and Media Exchange

The 4th session of the China Africa Press Center (CAPC) Program hosted by the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA) was officially launched on Wednesday 1st March 2017 in Beijing, China. This year’s event is running simultaneously with the China South Asia Center 2017 program. Both programs brought together forty-four journalists from Africa and South Asia.

The program you will give journalists the opportunity to cover major domestic and international events in China such as the upcoming Two Sessions, i.e, the 5th Session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) and the 5th Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese

People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) (similar to Parliamentary sessions in many countries) in March, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May and the 9th BRICS Summit in Autumn this year.

Read more...

Commentary

A NEW DAWN FOR JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN SIERRA LEONE, PARLIAMENT APPROVES MELRON NICOL-WILSON AS NEW OMBUDSMAN

The Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone has overwhelmingly approved the appointment of Mr Melron Nicol-Wilson as new Ombudsman, on Tuesday April 11, 2017. This follows him being named by H.E President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma as the replacement to Justice Edmond Cowan - a long-standing legal icon, who now chairs the Sierra Leone Constitutional Review Committee.

A man whose action speaks louder than words, Mr Nicol-Wilson has been appointed as new Ombudsman for Sierra Leone, a position reserved for high-profile people, who are well-respected and with unblemished character. Mr Nicol-Wilson has the typical pedigree of an Ombudsman, best known both in Sierra Leone and internationally as a champion for justice and human rights.  

The Parliament’s decision to approve Mr Nicol-Wilson was anticipated, as the high-profile human rights lawyer emerged unscathed from an exchange of views with Members of Parliament.

Read more...

View Point

ELECTION IS A TESTIMONY TO PEOPLE’S SOVEREIGNTY

(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely the thoughts of the author)

Election in any democratic setting, include the enjoyment of those rights that will elicit the full participation of individuals in determining the political life of his/her country. An election is a decision making process through which eligible citizens(those who have reached the age of majority, 18 years and above and with sound mind) freely choose their leaders through the ballot box to hold public offices for a specified term.

Generally, people vote with the expectation that the office holders would represent their communitiesand or countries best interest.  Elections are viewed as a central feature of the rule of law, human rights, and democracy. Essentially, election is a testimony to peoples’ sovereignty and that ought to be respected and the process must be credible, otherwise there will be challenge with regards the acceptance of the result.

Read more...

News - Press Release

Police reject security for Alternative Peoples Independence Procession and Rally

April 24th 2017: On the occasion of the 56th anniversary of Sierra Leone’s independence, Movement for Social Progress (MSP) had requested the Sierra Leone Police to provide the necessary security for a peaceful Alternative Peoples Independence Procession and Rally that was planned to coincide with the official celebrations. The procession was planned to start from Clock Tower to Brima Atouga Stadium in the East end of the city while the official events are scheduled to take place in the West end of the city.

In a meeting with senior members of the Sierra Leone Police at the SLP headquarters, on Monday 24th April attended by the Inspector General, Francis Munu, the Head of Police Operations, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Al-Sheikh Kamara, AIG Memuna Konteh Jalloh, AIG FUK Dabor, among others, the police top brass told members of MSP that they would not be able to provide security for the procession and rally.

The Inspector General of Police, Francis Munu, informed the meeting that they were overstretched with covering the official events, the traditional masquerade (or Odele) parade as well as the Lantern Parade on the eve of Independence.

Read more...

Society -Local News

AG to launch LAB in Waterloo

The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles has told the people of Waterloo that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice (AG), Hon. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara will serve as the keynote speaker at the launch of the Legal Aid Board in Waterloo in the Western Area Rural District on 6 May 2017.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles pointed out thatHon. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara has served as keynote speaker in all the launches the Board has had around the country. He noted that the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice is the supervisory ministry for the Legal Aid Board and further underlined the importance of having the holder of the office at such events in terms of availing himself with the challenges ordinary people face in accessing the justice system. More importantly, it provides an opportunity for these issues to be discussed by the cabinet.

Read more...

Development

LAB wants transports to allocate seats to the blind

The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles has disclosed plans to launch a White Cane Campaign in the coming weeks.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles made the disclosure while addressing a cross section of the Waterloo Community including stakeholders at the District Council Hall on Monday, 24 April 2017 in a meeting to plan the launch of the Legal Aid Board in Waterloo in the WesternArea Rural District on 6 May 2017.

She noted that the campaign will seek to address the challenges faced by blind people in using public transport. ‘Blind people have been suffering in silence for far too long,’ she said. ‘They have been discriminated against because of their disability and this cannot be tolerated.’

Read more...

Politics

SAM SUMANA TRAVELS TO GHANA ON "EMERGENCY TRAVEL CERTIFICATE"
Former elected Vice President Samuel Sam Sumana left Freetown International Airport, Lungi late afternoon Wednesday April 19, 2017 onboard Kenya Airways on an "Emergency Travel Certificate",  en route to Abuja, Nigeria on or about April 23/24, 2017 for the hearing of his petition filed on October 24, 2016 in the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, "seeking an enforcement of his fundamental Human Rights arising from his unconstitutional removal from office, and for further orders contained in the application."
 
"This matter has been set down for hearing by the Court for April 26, 2017."
 
According to a spokesman for the Sam Sumana family Matthias Bendu who was with Sam Sumana at the airport until the aircraft was airborne because of advanced information reaching the family that there would be some problem awaiting Sam Sumana at the airport, Matthias Bendu told this Writer on the cellphone from the airport that Sam Sumana "was detained by Immigration Officers at the airport for more than thirty minutes  after the aircraft  landed, and it was due to the intervention of the Inspector General of Police Francis Munu who told the immigration Officers that Sam Sumana had not committed any crime and must be allowed to travel".
Read more...
Copyright © 2017 expotimesonline. All rights reserved.