Sierra Leone: CJ Calls for Legal Aid Guide to Be Statutory

Chief Justice Abdulai Charm has admonished that the draft Legal Aid Guide be transformed into a statutory instrument. He was speaking on Thursday, 4 August at the endorsement meeting on the Legal Aid Guide, held at the Cube Restaurant in Freetown.

"I would advise that after today's workshop, steps would be taken to make the Guide a Statutory Instrument for it to have the force of law and bind all accredited legal aid providers. I would enjoin all participants to go through the draft Legal Aid Guide meticulously so as to make it a very good instrument in the furtherance of the work of the Board and the delivery of justice in our beloved country," said Hon. Justice Charm.

The Chief Justice intimated that the Judiciary's continued involvement and willingness to participate in the work of legal aid institutions was not accidental as, but founded on a strong legal basis because Section 120 of the 1991 Constitution confers all judicial power in Sierra Leone on the Judiciary, headed by the Chief Justice.

Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles, said the Guide would go a long way to enhancing effectiveness and efficiency at the Board in terms of implementing the Act as it covers the processes and procedures of accessing legal aid.

"This Guide will improve the delivery of legal aid and we are hearten the meeting on the endorsement of the document is taking place at a time when we are expanding our operations upcountry," Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said.

She noted that the Guide had come a long way and seized the opportunity to thank partners in the justice sector and organisations which participated in workshops to review and finalise it.

Chair of the Board, Justice Adeliza Showers, described the Guide as an essential part of the operations of the Board. She thanked OSIWA - Open Society Initiative for West Africa - for funding the workshop, and praised Mrs. Memunatu Pratt for her immense support to the work of the Board.

Country Officer of OSIWA, Joe Pemagbi, assured that his organisation would work with relevant actors to promote community based primary justice services across the country.

"Our aim is to work with government through the Legal Aid Board, MDAs and non-governmental organisations to deploy paralegal and other community service providers to provide primary justice services in the country," Pemagbi said.

He added that his organisation would support the Legal Aid Board develop Standard Operational Procedures, as well as work with the Board to sign cooperation agreements and provide grant making support to non-governmental organisations providing services. He added that his organisation would support the popularisation and distribution of the Guide to legal aid providers, stakeholders and communities after it had been passed into law.

Mrs. Memunatu Pratt presented the Legal Aid Guide on behalf of the Technical Working Group which was set up to review the recommendations of the two-day validation workshop to finalise the Guide for the attention of the Board.

Ms. Pratt talked the participants through the recommendations, which have been incorporated into the Guide. These include: the Board to decide on the establishment of a Guidance and Counselling programme; set-up a Court Monitoring Team; paralegals and interpreters should be fluent in the local languages of their respective community to assist applicants to fill forms annexed to the guide; the Board to encourage young legal practitioners to work on behalf of the Board; and an in-service training manual should be put together for paralegals and other legal aid organisations.

The meeting was climaxed by the endorsement of the Guide by the Board and management of the Guide.

Source: Concord Times

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