Sierra Leone Judiciary embarks on massive public education on the new Bail and Sentencing guidelinesSeptember 23, 2017
By Salifu Conteh
One of the Supreme Court Judges of the Judiciary of Sierra Leone and Chairperson of the Bail and Sentencing Working Group, Hon Mr. Justice N. C. Browne-Marke and Hon Mr. Justice Komba Kamanda of the High Court of Sierra Leone and teams, have embarked on massive public education on the new Bail and Sentencing guidelines that has been developed and expected to be in full operation shortly.
As means of popularizing the guidelines, the Judiciary of Sierra Leone hired the services of Timap For Justice and Prison Watch Sierra Leone to organized town hall meetings in eight major towns in the country vis-à-vis Kono, Kenema, and Kailahun in the east, Makeni and Port Loko in the north, Bo and Moyamba in the East and finally Freetown in the Western Area from the 26th to the 31stJuly, 2017.
Addressing residents in these locations, the Hon Justices of the Superior Court of Judicature said,in 2015, the Judiciary of Sierra Leone supported by its development partners -UNDP and US Department of State, were put to task by the people of this country to develop a new Bail and Sentencing Guidelines, one that will address the huge existing discrepancies in Bail and Sentencing of like-minded crimes in the country. Hon Mr. Justice Browne-Marke Justice said to residents in these locations, “Today, we have completed our work, we have come with the Bail and Sentencing Guidelines that is owned and to be validated by you”.
Speaking on bail, the Hon Mr. Justice Komba Kamada said, the Judiciary of Sierra Leone has developed a bail regulation that makes provisions for what he described as “self-bail” added to bail through surety”. Justice Kamanda said, Magistrate Courts must ensure that bail is granted as a matter of right for offenses which carry a maximum term of imprisonment if found guilty, of less than five years, such as insulting conduct or language, intimidation, criminal trespass and other minor Public Order Offences under the Public Order Act of 1965and minor traffic offences under the Road Traffic Act, 2007.
The Hon Justice Kamanda said, the Court must ensure and do all it can to put on bail any person under the age of eighteen years, accused person who is seriously sick, has physical and mental disabilities, pregnant women, lactating mothers or bread-feeding mothers, a man or a woman who is responsible for looking after his/her children in the home.
Placing emphasis on exceptional offences, Hon Mr. Justice Browne-Marke (JSC) said, inasmuch as the above have been made as matter of right and must for Magistrates and Judges in the Judiciary of Sierra Leone, there are certain offences where the above are not matter of rights but matter of the law and the discretion of judge. He said offences that carry the death penalties like Murder, Treason, Robbery with Aggravation and Robbery with Violence bail can be granted only by a judge and in a situation where he/she has verified beyond on reasonable doubt that the accused person(s) is not a flight risk and can come to Court when require of him/her. “The Leadership strongly hold the view that sending to prison at a trial stage for minor offences is a bad practice and that must stop”. Hon Mr. Justice Nicolas Browne-Marke said.
The Supreme Court Judge said, offences that carry a maximum of life imprisonment such as wounding with intent; Shooting with Intent; Arson; Simple Robbery Offences charged under the Larceny Act, 1986, both Magistrates and High Courts have “the discretion” as to whether to grant bail or not.
However, for the offences that carry life imprisonment, Justice Browne-Marke said, the Court under the new bail guideline, will not grant bail if the Court proofs beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused person if granted bail, will fail to appear on a subsequent adjourned date, might commit another offence whilst out on bail, is likely to endanger members of the public, or, national security, will likely interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice and the accused is a repeated offender.
Responding to questions, the Hon Justice Browne-Marke said, if pregnant woman, physically challenged people, primary caregivers of children are found guilty of committing a crime, they must be sentenced noting that granting of bail is not the end of the case and that bail must not be seen as means of punishment.
The town hall meetings were had live out door broadcast by various community radio stations like Eastern Community Radio in Kono, Radio New Song in Bo, Eastern Radio in Kenema, Radio Mankneh in Makeni, Radio Mocar in Moyamba and reported by several radio and television stations in the Freetown including AYV, Star and SLBC televisions.