From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, Judiciary Lectures on Granting of Bail
By Bampia Bundu
Oct 5, 2009, 14:35

The Honourable Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Haja Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh has on Friday 2nd October 2009 launched the country’s new Bail Policy at an auspicious occasion chaired by Gambian born High Court Justice, Hon. Madam Mary Sei. Held inside the High Court Room of the Law Courts, the event saw Madam Mary Sei and Hon. Justice M.E. Tolla Thompson amongst those who lectured on various aspects of what the Granting of Bail to suspects was all about.

In her Opening Remarks, Madam Mary Sei informed that bail is something that all accused persons deserve, except when they are charged with the offences of murder, treason and certain other major crimes. However, she informed that although bail was due to all persons, it remained within the discretion of the Magistrate or the Judge to grant bail to an accused person based upon the peculiar circumstances surrounding the matter.

Madam Sei added that the Prosecution has the right to appeal for bail not to be granted to an accused person on the grounds that the accused will jump bail, commit other crime or if given his or her freedom, might fail to adhere to strict bail conditions set. However, she said the presiding judge or magistrate must balance such requests with the knowledge that failing to grant bail to accused persons lead to overcrowded prisons and a concomitant violation of other rights of the accused person.

She therefore stated that with all the above factors, a lot of effort was expended into ensuring that the new Bail Policy was compiled. She thus encouraged participants to contribute effectively at the Day’s Workshop event that followed the launch of the Bail Policy as well as to come up with any recommendations or observations on the new Bail Policy.

Giving an overview of the Bail Policy, Hon. Justice M.E. Tolla-Thompson noted that the Bail Policy is to ensure a uniformity of purpose by Presiding Magistrates and Judges insofar as granting bail was concerned. He said the Policy served to make our communities safe whilst at the same time upholding the constitutional and human rights of accused persons and suspects.

Justice Tolla Thompson said the policy provides clarity to the issues of bail and in particular the provision of Section 79 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) and other legal provisions. He informed that the new Policy covered all decision-making for and against granting Bail to an accused as well as the procedures to be followed in matters of pre-trial detentions.

In his statement the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Serry Kamal congratulated the Judiciary for such a wonderful initiative and assured them of his support always.

The Full Text of the Keynote address rendered by Hon. Chief Justice Tejan-Jalloh as she officially launched the Bail Policy is reproduced on below of this edition.







Madam Chairperson, My Lords, Mr. Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Masters and Registrars, Your Worships, Representatives of the Justice Sector Development Program (JSDP), President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, Members of the Bar, Members of the Judicial Staff, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

I want to start by thanking you all for making it to the Law Courts this morning to be part of this very important ceremony. As has been reiterated by previous speakers, the issue of bail is very critical. The right to freedom and liberty is an enshrined Constitutional right which must be maintained and jealously guarded at all times, principally by the Judiciary, which has been entrusted with the judicial powers of the nation. Depriving an individual of such rights therefore is a very serious matter. It is important that provisions requiring such deprivation of rights are clear and applied with transparency and consistency. I am not oblivious of the numerous complaints against the judiciary, when bail is refused nor when bail is granted. It is therefore important that there should be a Policy to guide us and also bring awareness to Civil Society and indeed the entire nation.

In principle however, the issue of bail is a matter of discretion, by the Judicial Officer which must be exercised judiciously. This implies transparency, fairness and lawfulness, by reference to existing statutory provisions, policies and guidelines, always bearing in mind that the responsibility on the Judicial Officer is very grave and cannot be taken lightly. The fact that the prisons countrywide are overcrowded is relevant, but also, relevant is the fact that we have to ensure that our communities are safe and that people charged with any offence, make themselves available to face trial at the appropriate time.

I was disheartened, recently going through Magisterial Records, to observe the number of Bench Warrants pending which cannot be executed. This no doubt affects Justice Delivery and is one of the reasons there are delays in trials, constant adjournments, and huge backlog of cases. It is in the light of all these that the Judiciary has come up with this Bail Policy which we are about to launch.

This Policy is to serve as a reference point, help prevent arbitrary detention and help promote a fair Criminal Justice System. There will be additional guidelines as we gradually move towards Law Reform and possibly a Bail Act. There will also be continuous training for the Magistrates and other stakeholders to ensure that the provisions are appropriately applied and the Rule of Law maintained. In this regard, I will urge judicial officers to ensure strict compliance at all times. Sufficient copies of the Policy are available to ensure that as ma
ny people as possible have copies which they must refer to and be guided thereby.

Having said all these, Madam Chairperson, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my singular honour and privilege to formally launch the Bail Policy of Sierra Leone 2009.

I thank you.

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