Salone News

Criminal Justice reforms: A matter of urgency

19 October 2018 at 19:00 | 2076 views


By Francis Gabbidon, Barrister-At-Law, Freetown, Sierra Leone

A lot of progress has been made in Sierra Leone over the years in Access to Justice but a lot still remains to be done especially in the Criminal Justice Sector.

The important legislation of a New Criminal Procedure Act has still not been enacted especially with modern reforms of criminal procedure in our various courts to cut down, delays and costs in our legal system.

Our prisons are overcrowded and the new Criminal Procedure Act could have produced alternative remedies other than Custodial sentences. Thereby decongesting the prisons jails, detention centres and police cells as such sentences and Community Orders.

Sierra Leone needs a codified law of evidence. The major part of the law of evidence in Sierra Leone up to this day is common law of evidence. England, Nigeria, Gambia and Ghana, unlike Sierra Leone, have their respective Codified laws of evidence which are very relevant to their laws and Statutes.

The Police Act of 1964 is obsolete and very outdated and we need a new one urgently. The new Act has to deal with Crimes such as Terrorism, Human Trafficking, Drugs, Money Laundering and Cross Border Crimes.

We also need a State of the Art and modern forensic laboratory to help the police and Law enforcement agencies generally to fight crimes robustly and successfully.

We also need a Data Protection Act enacted by our Parliament as soon as possible to regulate and safeguard the various data we deal with and also to help the Statistics Office under the new dynamic Head of that Department.

Sierra Leone needs urgently a National Council of Law reporting as many cases are still unreported and finding them is also difficult. This makes for uncertainty and inconsistency in our Law Reports being difficult to cite in our courts and tribunals.

We have no legislation to deal with Defences such as Insanity, Diminished Responsibility unfitness to plead, automatism, non-insane automatism and Irresistible impulse. This lacuna deprives our lawyers and clients from defences that could have been open to them in some criminal cases.

We are still having so much problems with our jury system. Is it not high time we commence with trial by Judge and Assessors in some cases, especially complex criminal trials or criminal trials that need expert assessors?

Abortion is still a crime in Sierra Leone, even though the former government had the golden opportunity to pass the SAFE ABORTION ACT which the former president refused to assent to.

The safe Abortion Act should be enacted by President Bio and his Administration as the Women of Sierra Leone demand it.

Our Law Reform Commissioners should review:
- The Malicious Damage Act 1861
- The Offences Against the Person Act 1816
- The Perjury Act 1911 and
- The Forgery Act 1913
- The Larceny Act 1916 should be completely repealed and replaced by a Theft Act to deal with modern day and complex thefts/crimes.

Finally, we need A Cheques Act and A Proceeds of Crime Act.