Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 November 2020:
Sierra Leone’s Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards on Tuesday, warned those serving in the country’s Judiciary to desist from bribery, corruption and abuse of office which he said will undermine sustainable reforms and growth of the Judiciary.
His warning which is seen by many as a damning admission of rampant corruption in the judiciary, comes as confidence and trust in the judiciary continue to fall.
Chief Justice Edwards was delivering his keynote address to court staff attending a six-day training programme, including Court Registrars, Baliffs, Administrative and other Support staff of the Judiciary – a total of one hundred and twenty-eight.
According to Justice Edwards, the training is the first in the history of the Judiciary. He told participants that the Judiciary and Legal Training Institute has appointed experienced facilitators to deliver the training, covering: the Roles of Registrars in Civil and Criminal Courts; Roles of the Bailiffs, Court Secretaries in both Civil and Criminal proceedings; treatment of vulnerable and special witnesses, Bail and Bond Regulations, Bail/Bond requirements, management of records, Judiciary as an Arm of Government: Relationship with the Bar, Law Office, Sierra Leone Police and the Legal Aid Board, facilities and assets, ethics with particular reference to the code of conduct for support staff and many more to develop their capacity.
Speaking about the adverse effects of corruption in the judiciary, Chief Justice Edwards said ‘some staff members are either just too wicked or not good at their work, which is why they mostly renege on their sacred duties to allow court files and documents to go missing; allowing accused persons to jump bail or sometimes delay or stop cases from coming up for hearing’.
Although many would say that the chief justice has waited two years before accepting that there is corruption in the judiciary and take prompt action, he has not gone far enough. Critics are calling for the sacking of corrupt court officials, magistrates, and judges.
But Justice Edwards vowed to reform the judiciary and make it transparent and accountable to the people. He said that the training will empower court officials to become resourceful and productive.
He added that after the training staff members who engage in corruption under the cover of inexperience or lack of training will have no place to hide.
“You either do what is expected of you or face disciplinary action,” he warned.
The training is being headed by the Director of Judiciary and Legal Training Institute, Hon. Justice Eku Roberts with support from Justices Hon. Brown Marke (JSC); Hon. Alusine Sesay (JSC); Hon. Reginald Fynn (JA); Hon. Monfred Sesay (JA); Hon. Musu Damba (JA); Hon. Bintu Alhadi (JA) and Hon. Komba Kamanda (JA).