Judicial Institute trains Newly Appointed Judges commissioned by Chief Justice

By Salifu Conteh
The Judicial and Legal Training Institute (JLTI) of the Judiciary of Sierra Leone in collaboration with UK Sierra Leone Pro Bono Network and the Judicial Institute for Africa (JIA) with support from the Department for International (DFID) – ROLE UK and the Recovery Justice Programmes (RJP) on the 6th September, 2017 completed four day intensive training for thirty-five (35) judges including the newly appointed judges on “Core Skills for Newly-Appointed Judges” at the Family Kingdom Conference Hall in Freetown.
Though the training was primarily planned for newly recruited judges, yet an invitation was extended to sitting judges and they were in full attendance.
Opening the session, the Hon Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone Hon Mr. Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm said, the training is organized by the Judiciary in collaboration with it international partners for the newly appointed judges. Addressing the judges, the Hon Chief Justice said, there is a big difference between been a very good practitioner or magistrates and that of a judge. He said the workshop is to ensure that the judges are placed in a sound footing so that they will be able to handle their respective courts accordingly and to dispense justice in accordance with the law. He said the training was designed in a way that they will be equipped and empowered to be presidents of their courts.

He beseeched them to move with the ongoing judicial reforms and also encouraged them to read all legal documents effectively including the “Rule of Court and other relevant Law Reports”. “The issue of public trust has increased and we get to the acme when decisions are taken by judges are in line with law and integrity”. “I am happy and very lucky to have international partners like Role UK, DFID through the Recovery Justice Project (RJP) and the United Nations Development Program for being so resourceful to the Judiciary of Sierra Leone” the Hon Chief Justice disclosed.
Given his lecture on the topic “Separation of Power”, the former Chief Justice of Belize Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh told Sierra Leone judges that Separation of Power is the bedrock of judicial independence and today the fundamental principle of Public Law; noting that the principle postulates that in a functional democracy, the three foremost institution of governance are separated and distinct. He said the role and function of the Judiciary in a democratic state is to ensure that laws and regulations that govern the state are interpreted accordingly.
He said judicial independence is easily stated than defined; there is no judicial independence without judicial impartiality stressing that judicial impartiality is when all those who appear before the courts, be they the high and mighty or the subjects, are equal before the law and decision taken by a judge must be in accordance with the law and the facts or merits of any particular case.
Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh said this requires institutional and administrative independence and these can be achieved when there is financial independence of the Judiciary. Defining financial independence, he said monies voted or appropriated to the Judiciary should be under the control of the Judiciary and its staff but will require the necessary accountability of the Judiciary for those, as it is for all public funds.
In his talk on Case Management, Richard Honey of the UK Sierra Leone Pro Bono Network said, Case Management entails the process of documenting the progress of cases and actions through the court system and also the active involvement of judicial officer in the process of adjudication of cases. He told the judges that Case Management increased the participation of stakeholders in the case adjudication for the expeditious resolutions of the dispute and will enable the court to seal loopholes used by litigants to affect the pace of litigation.
He said effective case management requires knowledge of the procedural and substantive laws. In particular, knowledge in the rules governing the process is imperative. He stressed that judges should imposed credible timelines and sanctioned any breach. “If lawyers know that the judge’s timelines mean nothing they will breach them with impunity and in the long term the judge’s management of the cases may lose credibility”. He said.
Speaking on Bail and Sentencing and Criminal Law and Procedure Titbits, the Hon Mr. Justice N.C Browne-Marke said, the new Bail and Sentencing instruments address uniformity in bail and sentencing in the Judiciary of Sierra Leone. He stressed that the issue of granting bail must be a matter of rights for all minor offenses, and at the discretion of the Judge and Magistrate for offenses that attract life imprisonment and by a judge for offenses that attract death penalty. He said one of the principal aims of the Bail and Sentencing Instrument is to ensure that accused persons standing trial before the court most at all-time enjoy fair trial through the protection of law and the presumption of innocent. “It is a bad practice for an accused person who may be later found innocent to be kept in prison for the rest of his trail”. He said.
Other topics like Judgement Writing and Motions Applications were handled by Hon Justice Dingake, Contract Law and its remedies from a judicial perspectivewas dealt with by Hon. Mrs. Justice M. V. Solomon (JSC) Consideration of Ethics Scenarios in groups facilitated by Faculty was led by Lord HHJ Hatton of the United Kingdom.

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