The report, REFERENCE NO: OMB /0149/15, relates to a complaint that was first lodged to the Ombudsman in September 2015, against the Sierra Leone Law School by certain law graduates, on allegations that the Law School had unlawfully denied them admission to study for the Bar because they had not pass some law subjects/modules at the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) level.
Upon assuming office on the 2nd May 2017, the aggrieved law graduates (complainants) approached the new Ombudsman Mr. Melron Nicol-Wilson and pleaded with him to speedily look into their complaint as it had not been concluded since it was lodged in September 2015. The new Ombudsman assured the complainants that he would speedily investigate the matter and come out with a report on his findings within the shortest possible time.
The complainants contended that the criteria to pass the core law subjects/modules at the LLB level was not a statutory requirement for admission into the Law School. The only requirement, they say, as enshrined in the Legal Practitioners Act, is a Bachelor degree in Law with Honours at such level as the Council of Legal Education may determine.
Further, the complainants argued that the Law School had been admitting students that also failed the core law subjects at LLB level, and that no notice was given to them by the School with regards to a change in admission requirements.
In Response, the Law School states that the requirement for passing the core law subjects at the LLB level had always been part of the admission requirement into the School since its inception in 1990; and that the said requirement is on pages 8-9 of the School’s Handbook and website.
The Law School further points out, in their reply, that educational and professional training institution the world over reserve the right to set criteria for admission, and such criteria may be changed from time to time.
The Law School also informs the Ombudsman that the same set of Law Graduates (complainants) had taken the same complaint to the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) and the Anti Corruption Commission, and that both institutions found the allegations to be untenable.
After a thorough examination of the evidence gathered during the course of the investigations, and relying on relevant case laws in other jurisdictions on similar matters, the Ombudsman concludes that although the passing of the core law subjects/modules was not a statutory requirement, as rightly claim by the complainants, however, such specific requirements need not be statutory because educational institutions reserve the right to set their standards of entry, progression and graduation.
The Ombudsman also finds that there was no change in the admission requirement into the Sierra Leone Law School, and that the school’s handbook and website clearly state that applicants must have studies and pass the following six core law subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law, Criminal Law, Contract law, Equity and the Law of Trust, Land Law and the Law of Tort.
The Ombudsman looked at the transcripts of the complainants and discovered that all the complainants had at least failed one of the core law modules at the LLB level.
The Ombudsman further concludes that the Legal practitioners Act of 2000 and its subsequent amendments, which the complainants reference, does not contain any provision relating to admission into the Sierra Leone Law School, but rather, it contains requirements for admission to practice law in Sierra Leone.
Therefore, the Ombudsman found that the complaint against the Sierra Leone Law School by the aggrieved law graduates does not have merit and as such, he could not recommend that the complainant be admitted into the Law School.