Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6th September 2017
Sierra Leone’s Ombudsman, Mr. Melron Nicol-Wilson, on Monday 4th September, 2017, released a report on a complaint he had investigated against the Sierra Leone Law School.
The complaint was first lodged with the Ombudsman in September 2015, against the Sierra Leone Law School, by certain law graduates.
They alleged that the Law School had unlawfully denied them admission to study for the Bar, because they had not passed some law subjects and or modules at the Bachelor of Law’s (LLB) level.
Upon assuming office on the 2nd May, 2017, the aggrieved law graduates (complainants) approached the new Ombudsman, Mr. Melron Nicol-Wilson (Photo), and pleaded with him to speedily look into their complaint, as it had not been concluded since it was lodged in September, 2015.
The Ombudsman assured the complainants that, he would speedily investigate the matter and come out with a report on his findings, within the shortest possible time.
The complainants contended that, the criteria to pass the core law subjects/modules at the LLB level were not statutory requirements for admission into the Law School.
They said, the only requirement, as enshrined in the Legal Practitioners’ Act, is a Bachelor’s degree in Law, with Honours at such level as the Council of Legal Education may determine.
The complainants further argued that, the Law School had been admitting students that also failed the core law subjects at LLB level, and that no notice was given to them by the School, with regards to a change in admission requirement.
In response, the Law School stated that, the requirement for passing the core law subjects at the LLB level had always been part of the admission requirement into the School, since its inception in 1990; and that the said requirement is on pages 8-9 of the School’s Handbook, and also on its website.
The Law School further pointed out, in their reply, that educational and professional training institutions, the world over, reserve the right to set criteria for admission, and that such criteria may be changed from time to time.
The Law School also informed the Ombudsman that, the same set of Law Graduates (complainants) had taken the same complaint to the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) and the Anti-Corruption Commission, and that both institutions found the allegation to be untenable.
After a thorough examination of the evidence gathered during the course of the investigation, and relying on relevant case law in other jurisdictions, on similar matters, the Ombudsman concluded that, although the passing of the core law subjects/modules was not a statutory requirement, as rightly claimed by the complainants, such specific requirement need not be statutory, because educational institutions reserve the right to set their own standards for entry, progression and graduation.
The Ombudsman also realised that, there was no change in the admission requirement into the Sierra Leone Law School, and that the school’s handbook and website clearly state that, applicants must have studied and passed the following six core law subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law, Criminal Law, Contract law, Equity and the Law of Trust, Land Law and the Law of Tort.
The Ombudsman looked at the transcripts of the complainants and discovered that, all the complainants had, at least, failed one of the core law modules, at the LLB level.
The Ombudsman further noted that, the Legal practitioners’ Act of 2000 and its subsequent amendments, to which the complainants referenced, do not contain any provision relating to admission into the Sierra Leone Law School, but rather, the Act contains requirements for admission to practice law in Sierra Leone.
Therefore, the Ombudsman decided that, the complaint against the Sierra Leone Law School, by the aggrieved law graduates, does not have merit, and as such, he could not recommend that the complainants be admitted into the Law School.
About the author
Abdulai Sanesie is the Principal Public Relations Officer in the Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
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