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Sierra Leone

Access to Justice (SL0020)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Sierra Leone National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Sierra Leone Police

Support Institution(s): Office of the Master and Registrar and Sierra Leone Police; Campaign for Good Governance, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Society for Democratic Initiative

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Public Service Delivery, Records Management, Security

IRM Review

IRM Report: Sierra Leone Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Status quo or problem/ issue to be addressed
The citizens do not have access to information on court cases and there are certain cases which require mediation and can be settled out of court.
Main objective
Increase transparency in case management and establish structures at the local level to improve access to justice
Brief Description of Commitment (140 character limit)
Local structures will be established to address justice issues and government will publish on a quarterly basis updates on all cases starting July 2016

IRM Midterm Status Summary

9. Access to Justice

Commitment Text:

Local structures will be established to address justice issues and government will publish on a quarterly basis updates on all cases starting July 2016.

Milestones:

Activate child mediation panels with stakeholders in all the Nineteen (19) local councils

Have pictures and finger print evidence for offenders

Quarterly publication of all cases that go through the justice system

Setting mediation panels in all police stations

Responsible institution: Sierra Leone Police

Supporting institution(s): Office of the Master and Registrar, Campaign for Good Governance, Center for Accountability and Rule of Law, Society for Democratic Initiative

Start date: July 2016 End date: June 2018

Context and Objectives

Sierra Leone has made several strides in strengthening the justice system by establishing a National Human Rights Commission and a Law Reform Commission to review existing laws and guide future legislation.[Note134: Justice Sector and the Rule of Law, http://issat.dcaf.ch/download/48039/758786/Sierra%20Leone%20Justice.pdf] The effectiveness of the judiciary, however, continues to be hampered by many factors including corruption, lack of resources, unprofessionalism of the police, and over-crowding in prisons.[Note135: Freedom House, Sierra Leone, freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2016/sierra-leone] In addition, citizens have limited access to judiciary matters. Another area where the justice system continues to be fraught with challenges is juvenile services. According to one report these challenges include lack of cells across all police stations for juvenile suspects, lack of psychological support for children in contact with the law, and lack of transportation for child offenders.[Note136: [1] Sierra Leone Legal Aid Board, Internationallegalaidgroup.org/images/miscdocs/LEGAL_AID_BOARD_COUNTRY_REPORT_2016_Final.pdf]

The objective of the commitment is to increase transparency in case management and establish structures at the local level to improve access to justice. The idea of the commitment including child mediation panels came from the Police. One particular activity focuses on developing judicial infrastructure for child cases, while the others focus on general cases. If fully implemented, the commitment would contribute to improving access to justice, as the mediation panels would reduce the length of time it takes to finish prosecution. Only the milestone on 'quarterly publication of all cases that go through the justice system' has relevance to the OGP value of access to information. If fully implemented, the commitment will have limited impact first, because other law enforcement bodies handle child justice issues already. Second, because it is unclear what specific information will be published about cases, it is difficult to establish greater than minor impact. A Steering Committee member from a civil society organisation working on court issues told the researcher that the milestone did not adequately convey the case management information that was to be provided as envisaged by civil society.[Note137: IRM researcher’s interview of Programme Officer, Center for Accountability and Rule of Law, 6 November 2017.] According to him, civil society had wanted basic information such as dates for court sittings, and announcements of petitions and adjournments.

Completion

From the researcher’s investigations, implementation of the two commitment milestones has not started, with one activity completed prior to the start of the action plan. The Registrar of the Legal Aid Board expressed doubt regarding the child mediation panels because the Family Support Unit in the Police and the Legal Aid Board are handling the child justice issues already.[Note138: IRM researcher’s interview of the Registrar, Legal Aid Board, 20 October 2017.] Key informants interviewed by the researcher were not aware of child mediation panels in local councils.[Note139: These included IRM researcher’s interview with the head of gender and hospitality in the Sierra Leone Police, interview with the Registrar of the Legal Aid Board, and participants at the civil society stakeholder meeting of 20 October 2017.]

According to the head of gender and hospitality in the Sierra Leone Police, fingerprints and pictures of sexual offenders are taken during the course of an investigation, however, this is not a new practice as it began prior to the start of this action plan.[Note140: IRM researcher’s interview of the Director, Gender Affairs and Hospitality, 15 October 2017.] She also expressed that the expectations for publishing court cases were unclear. [Note141: IRM researcher’s interview of the Director, Gender Affairs and Hospitality, 15 October 2017; and of Programme Officer, Center for Accountability and Rule of Law, 6 November 2017.] The OGP coordinator explained that there has been some exploration for utilising telephone technology to track cases, but nothing has been confirmed. [Note142: IRM researcher’s interview of OGP Coordinator, 11 December 2017.] These efforts are dependent on funding, which has not been guaranteed.

The researcher saw no evidence of mediation panels set up in police stations. Key informants told the researcher that the Police sometimes helps people settle disputes informally, without litigation. According to the Registrar of the Legal Aid Board they offer alternative dispute resolution services that could incorporate police in some capacity.

Next Steps

This commitment should be taken forward into the next action plan, with a clearer language that focuses on providing information on case management to the public. An official of the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law, a CSO involved with the commitment, told the researcher that the commitment’s language missed the real intentions of civil society and did not address issues related to bribery for accessing information such as court dates or assigned magistrate to a case.[Note143: IRM researcher’s interview of Programme Officer, Center for Accountability and Rule of Law, 6 November 2017.] The intention should be to enable citizens to easily follow the progress of cases in court without any hassle.[Note144: Ibid.] The police should also consult with civil society organisations to better understand judiciary priorities that are important to the public to ensure future commitments are relevant and address existing needs.


Sierra Leone's Commitments

  1. Gender

    SL0012, 2016, Capacity Building

  2. Foriegn Aid Transparency

    SL0013, 2016, Aid

  3. Waste Management

    SL0014, 2016, Capacity Building

  4. Fiscal Transparency and Open Budget

    SL0015, 2016, E-Government

  5. Audit Report

    SL0016, 2016, Audits and Controls

  6. Climate Change

    SL0017, 2016, Capacity Building

  7. Elections

    SL0018, 2016, E-Government

  8. Record Archive Management

    SL0019, 2016, E-Government

  9. Access to Justice

    SL0020, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Open Public Procurement Contracting

    SL0021, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  11. Publish and Revise 70% of Mining and Agricultural Lease Agreements and Contracts

    SL0009, 2014, E-Government

  12. Starred commitment Right to Access Information Law

    SL0010, 2014, Capacity Building

  13. Open Data Portal for Transparency in Fiscal and Extractive Transactions

    SL0011, 2014, E-Government

  14. Public Integrity Pact with 5 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies

    SL0001, 2014, Conflicts of Interest

  15. Archives and Records Management Act

    SL0002, 2014, E-Government

  16. Scale Up Performance Management and Service Delivery Directorate

    SL0003, 2014, Public Participation

  17. Compliance with Audit Measures

    SL0004, 2014, Audits and Controls

  18. Starred commitment Single Treasure Account

    SL0005, 2014, Extractive Industries

  19. Extractive Industry Revenue Act

    SL0006, 2014, Extractive Industries

  20. Scaling Up Extractive Industry Transparency Initiatives

    SL0007, 2014, Extractive Industries

  21. Local Content Policy (LCP) Linkages with MDAs

    SL0008, 2014, Capacity Building