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LAB, Office of Ombudsman sign MoU

30 June 2017 at 01:42 | 1300 views

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The Legal Aid Board and the Office of the Ombudsman have signed a Memorandum of Understanding which formalizes the relationship between the two institutions with the aim of addressing the justice needs of people.

The signing took place in the morning in the conference room of the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice on Wednesday, 28 June 2018 in the presence of journalists and staff of both institutions.

The MOU will see one institution refer complaints to the other based on their respective mandate. This means the Office of the Ombudsman will refer complaints which fall within the mandate of Legal Aid Board. The Board in turn will do the same for complaints which fall under the Office of the Ombudsman.

In his statement prior to signing the MOU, the new Ombudsman, Lawyer Melron Nilcol-Wilson said his Office has complaints which fall within the mandate of the Legal Aid Board. He noted that in the past, complaints which do not fall under the remit of the Office of the Ombudsman are discarded.

Lawyer Nilcol-Wilson had warm words for the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles and the work of the Board. ‘This MOU will promote justice and good governance in Sierra Leone,’ he said.

Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles expressed delight at the partnership. She praised the new Ombudsman for being the brain behind legal aid provision following the setting up of the first legal aid organization in the country, the Lawyers Center for Legal Assistance (LAWCLA). ‘You started it all,’ she said, adding: ‘If we are benefiting from the scheme today, we need to look back.’

She noted that prior to the appointment of the Ombudsman, the Office had a lot of complaints which were not attended to because the then Ombudsman was busy with the Constitutional Review Committee which he served as chair.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said a lot of work has gone into making the Board a household name in the country. He added that hundreds visit Legal Aid Board offices around the country to access services. ‘The complaints we handle include referrals from our partners around the country.’

She disclosed that the Board has been holding on to matters which will now be referred to the Office of the Ombudsman.

She noted that in other countries, the Office of the Ombudsman is referred to as the Public Defender which combines the functions of the Office of the Ombudsman and the legal aid Board.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said the Board will be happy to work with the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct joint outreach activities. ‘We have staff in all the fourteen districts and have offices in ten locations in the country,’ she said. She encouraged the Ombudsman to ensure his office join the District and Provincial Security Committees. ‘This is a forum where peace time issues are discussed,’ she said.

The chairperson for the ceremony, Legal Aid Manager, Lawyer Ansumana Ivan Sesay described the signing as an important milestone in broadening the frontiers of access to justice.

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