The Sierra Leone Motor Drivers Union and the Okoda (Motorcycle) Riders Association will be among key partners to grace the launch. The Board has been under pressure from both Associations to do something about their members who are held against their will at the Correctional Center in Moyamba. This is because the National Revenue Authority (NRA) does not have a presence in the town where to pay fines imposed by the Magistrate Court.
The Consultant to the Board, Lawyer Francis Gabiddon was part of the team led by the Executive Director Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles that visited Moyamba Town on August 4to assess the justice needs in the district. He saidthe launch is crucial in addressing concerns that came up atthe meetings with stakeholders in the justice sector. ‘This is important in ensuring recent developments in the judiciary is felt in Moyamba District,’ he said.
Lawyer Gabiddon said the meetingswith stakeholders in both the formal and informal justice sectors providedan insight into the problems facing the justice system which in his view should be addressed without any delay because they have implications for the judiciary and also bother on fundamental human rights. Lawyer Gabiddon is hopeful the recent training of Board staff and partners on the proposed Bail and Sentencing Policy and Alternative Dispute Resolution is a step towards contributing to addressing these problems.
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles has disclosed that the office will be launched by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Hon. JosephFitzgerald Kamara. She described the presence of the Attorney General at the launch as an opportunity for the people to put their justice problems directly to him.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles expressed disappointment at the failure to reduce the prison population and by extension overcrowding. While Ms. Carlton-Hancileshas stopped short of accusing the justice sector of undermining the Board but believes more could be done to address this problem. ‘We provided legal assistance to 40, 470 indigents in the first half of the year, yet the numbers in the Correctional Centers keep rising. I share the views of Justice Browne-Marke that the appointment of more judges should reduce and not increase the prison population,’ she said.
Sheexpressed delight at the recent appointment of ten High Court Judges, some with a very strong human rights background. ‘I believe Justice Jamesina King, AnsumanaSesayand others will make a whole difference in ensuring accused persons are not denied bail on flimsy grounds. We are alarmed by this state of affairs in part because most of the remand inmates in Correctional Centers are the Board’s clients,’ she said.
The Executive Director,Ms. Carlton-Hanciles is expected to use the visit and launch to speak with the leadership of the police regarding investigating sexual offences. She thinks the police and the Ministry of Health should do more in handling sexual offences especially sexual penetration cases. These matters should be treated with the seriousness and the urgency they deserve. We are concern about the abuse of children especially the victims of sexual penetration,’she stressed
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles has also said those who can afford to pay fines - imposed by the courts - to secure their freedom should be able to do so without any delay. ‘I would like to send a very strong warning to all concerned that these violations will no longer be accepted.’ She said. ‘The NRA must provide a bank account number where convicts can pay their fines and such an account should be with theRokel Commercial Bank which is the only bank in Moyamba Town.’