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).
There is something missing in Desmond Edwards’ message: What are his proposals or tactics which he intends to use to uncover corrupt members of the Judiciary? He must also let the nation know whether the political backing is there from President Bio for him to put up a good fight irrespective of who or what is involved. We have seen a number of times when the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has been hamstrung by the Bio government, because a case involves members of the government and top civil servants.
I half expected the Chief Justice to bring in jurists from the British Commonwealth to take over our entire Judiciary for a year while he (Desmond Edwards) and his cohorts underwent a refresher course. The Chief Justice has been part of the system for years which makes him legally myopic and sometimes completely blind.
A revolution is what is needed in the Judiciary and it is not for the frail or faint of heart. A system should be established wherein judges should not be politically appointed – they should come through a hierarchy. This should make them beholden to no one, they quite simply apply the law without prejudice. Can anyone say with all sincerity that the judges appointed by Bio will ever rule against SLPP or Bio himself? Desmond Edwards, please take a look at how judges are selected in Britain and have the guts to recommend the process to your boss.
Chief Justice Edwards getting tough huh?(lol)Now who has ever seen a puppet dangling helplessly on a string with the ability to become strict,stern and disciplined on its own free will? Gentlemen – the man cannot be trusted,there are countless opposition cases waiting,gathering dust in his shadowy office that he has adamantly refused to give any kind of due consideration whatsoever.”A leader is like the wind,and wherever the wind blows,” said the Great Confucius,”there also will the green grass lean”Are you listening Chief Justice?
I mean seriously,lets call a spade a spade,in Sierra Leone the Judiciary is rotten to its core because the Chief Justice is said to be allegedly corrupt to his bone and marrow.Ask yourselves – How many pivotal rulings has this spooky,eerie puppet dangling helplessly on an SLPP string made against their Criminal Cabal since they assumed the reins of power over two years ago? You guessed it – the answer is none!
Sincerely,i am all for training people effectively and doing whatever is possible to improve their deep-rooted abilities and productivity but when those in positions of authority are found to be seriously corrupt the whole process of accountability becomes nothing but a totally fruitless exercise – things begin to systematically fall apart and crumble like sandcastles built by the hands of children lacking in strong foundation.Empty rhetoric just will not suffice – its time to lead by a shiny spotless example Mr Chief Justice.
Thank you Chief Justice. Without uncorrupted JUDICIARY, even hospitals will become corrupted. With corruption comes distrust, mistrust, and when trust is undermined, everything else is undermined. If I have to worry whether my hospital will treat me right or PASS ME OFF, or whether I will receive a FAIR HEARING in a court or whether my children’s perpetrator will be brought to justice is enough to lose hope. But do NOT lose hope. God does NOT forget. He is NOT DEAD! Training and reforms are very good and of ACCOUNTABILITY. When people are not held accountable, corruption continues.
In 2015 after the investigative Ghanaian journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, exposed some high court judges, in Ghana, that were involved in human trafficking, bribery and corruption and working in tandem with corrupt police forces around the country, they were duly suspended by the chief justice of Ghana. There should be no place for corrupt members of the judiciary . Because it undermines trust by the public. “UNITY, PEACE AND JUSTICE” is engraved in our country’s court of arms. That tells you everything you want to know why justice is so important . Because with out it, its anarchy. Whether you are a judge, a register, police officer, bailiffs what ever role you play in interpreting the laws of the land, you have to be seen to be doing your job without any fear or favour.
The security of the state rest on the shoulders of those that work in the judiciary. Your job is more important in advancing the cause of the country and development than the office of the President, and parliament combined. So it is incumbent of members of the judiciary to know their role in our society. The state left unchecked and policed is detrimental to the rights of ordinary citizens and a Free press . If you think of the state as a family, the judiciary is playing the role of Mum and Dad to resolve issues that may arise in the family. Like election dispute, land issues, prosecution of those that break the law, example is the ongoing corruption cases. A country cannot develop without a strong and robust judiciary .
An independent judiciary will make tribal and regional differences thing of the past. I hope our chief justice practices what he preaches to restore some faith in our out of control, and Bio politicised judiciary. More than ever, our country need our judiciary to be seen to be independent and blindly interpreting the laws of the land as written in our statue books. If the US judiciary wasn’t independent, Trump would be sworn in on the 20th of January 2021, as the 46th president of the United States . That underscores why we need robust and effective judiciary in Sierra leone.