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As 2016/17 Judicial Year ends, Justice Charm under the Microscope

By Salifu Conteh

The Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone- Hon Mr. Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm
The 2017/2018 judicial year commenced on the 8th and 10th September 2017 with an Assize Service and followed by a Call-Over on 19th September, 2017 by the Hon Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone Hon Mr. Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm of one hundred and eighty-two accused persons.
It is good that we are starting a new judicial year with a thanksgiving service, but we should be mindful of the fact that modern governance requires accountable and transparent leadership.

This medium is very committed in ensuring the current Hon Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone Hon Mr. Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm accounts for his stewardship to the people of Sierra Leone who on the 20th January, 2016 confirmed him as the Chief Justice of this country through their elected representatives. In order to fairly gauge His Lordship a vox-pop was conducted with the ultimate aim of getting independent public views as to whether he has succeeded or not in the just concluded Judicial Year.
From our findings, many people are of the unyielding opinion that reforms in the Judiciary of Sierra Leone commenced from the very the day Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm was appointed Chief Justice by the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. “When the State House Release was read at the National Broadcaster, I saw judicial power given to a man who exhibits energy, vigor, and enthusiasm to bring positive change through personable leadership and management style … why should I be stunned about his achievements?” an octogenarian counsel questioned.
One of Sierra Leone’s leading legal practitioners who wants to remain anonymous revealed that Justice Charm just like his predecessors can be best and fairly assessed if placed on a single scale of which the most appropriate would be the Judiciary’s vision statement which says “accessible, fair and expeditious justice for all in Sierra Leone”.
Since he assumed office, Justice Charm has ensured that justice is accessible to all and sundry by establishing Magistrate courts in all district headquarter and major towns in the country including but not limited to Kabala, Lungi, Lunsar, Mile 91, Kailahum etc; he has increased the number of judges from twenty-five (25) to thirty-five (35). His recent employment to the superior court of judicature revealed his strong commitment and passion for women’s empowerment, as five out of the eleven judges that were employed were women along with four women Supreme Court Judges outnumbering their male colleagues.
Through the support of his international partners, to be specific the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the US Department of State and Department for International Development (DFID), Justice Charm has introduced for the first the time in West Africa the Justice Mobile App that not only serves as a database but also used to track down first time and repeated offenders of criminal offenses. His administration has built affirmative relationship and linked the Judiciary of Sierra Leone with international bodies and other judiciaries in the world. The Hon Chief Justice also ensured that his judges embark on international and local trainings to ensure that justice is not only accessible but fair and expeditious.
“I have served three Chief Justices as Magistrate but frankly speaking, Justice Charm’s leadership and his committed to improve standard in the Judiciary cannot be over emphasized,” a Magistrate revealed with passion.
As a means of decongesting the prisons or correctional centers in the country, Justice Charm on July 2017 assigned three Court of Appeal Judges to expedite three hundred and fifty three criminal cases that were committed to the High Court by Magistrate courts in Kono, Makeni and Port Loko. According to information gathered, the three judges were able to decongest the prison in Port Loko, Makeni and Kono within 19 days. A prison officer in Port Loko said besides decongesting the prisons “I perceived the move taken by the Hon Chief Justice as one that works in line with the right to fair hearing and trial, just to prove the accused persons are guilty or not as stated in section 23 (1) and (4) of the 1991 Constitution.
Mohamed Mansaray Esq. told this medium that the decision taken by the leadership of the Judiciary of Sierra Leone in ensuring that women have unhindered access to all courts in the Judiciary of Sierra Leone attracted the minds of the international community. He told this medium that the decision attracted the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and almost ten minutes were allotted to discuss a decision described by BBC as unique in the Justice System in Africa.
Commenting on the type of leader Justice Charm is and the secret behind his achievements, the Public Relations Officer and Official Spokesperson of the Judiciary of Sierra Leone Mr. Moses Lamin Kamara said the 2016/2017 Judicial year is one of the most successful years in the history of the Judiciary of Sierra Leone. He said administrative success counts on the leadership style of the leader. He described the Hon Chief Justice as someone who always creates time to listen to people and space for legal and non-legal staff to strategically contribute to his reforms process. “In a nutshell, he is a situational leader”. Mr. Kamara said.
Principal to this is the fact that the Hon Chief Justice is surrounded by Supreme Court Judges that are extremely willing to serve and support him and always ready to be commissioned. For instance, Hon Justice Browne-Marke as chair of the Bail and Sentencing Working Group has been effectively engaged in ensuring that laws are reformed in order to bring the Judiciary of Sierra Leone to international standard. Hon Mr. Justice EE Robert has been effectively coordinating local and international training for Judges in areas that will ensure that the Judiciary of Sierra Leone achieve its vision and mission statement, and Justice Solomon has been working relentlessly in ensuring that cases at Magistrate level are tried expeditiously. Also, Judges at the Court of Appeal and that of the High Court are also carriers of his reforms. Also, support staff cannot be left out in the gains made by the Hon. Chief Justice.

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