Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 January 2022:
The Judiciary of Sierra Leone last Friday announced that it will review the convictions of over 1,000 inmates as part of what it describes as effort to increase access to justice and decongest Correctional Centres across the country.
This week, 31st January 2022 to 4th February 2022 has therefore been declared as ACCESS TO JUSTICE WEEK.
According to statement published last by the Judiciary; “This is one of the initiatives of the current administration provided by the Honourable Chief Justice, His Lordship Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards, to enhance access to justice and to further decongest correctional centers by ensuring that inmates/accused persons or some convicted persons have the opportunity to be heard and have their cases reviewed by specific Judges deployed across the Country by the Honourable Chief Justice.”
“Following a stakeholders meeting involving the Judiciary, Sierra Leone Correctional Centers, Legal Aid Board, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Sierra Leone Police, it was discovered that a good number of inmates had issues bothering on access to Justice,” the statement reads.
Out of a total of one thousand and thirteen prisoners, 111 are awaiting trial without indictments; 138 on prolonged adjournments due to lack of empanelled jurors, 181 on bail but unable to fulfil their bail conditions to secure their release, 47 serving unjustifiable and disproportionate sentences from Magistrates with no Summary Review application in their favour, and 532 are behind bars with no admission to bail for possible bailable offences.
In order to address these injustices, 26 Judges will be deployed across the country to ensure that prisoners are given the opportunity to have their incarcerations reviewed in Prison Courts to be held outside the Correctional facilities; while those without indictments would be given the opportunity for their cases to be dealt with expeditiously or as the justice of case may require.
But the imp[act of this declared Justice Week will be felt across the Justice system, as there will be a one-week recess across the country where all other Court matters will not be heard except for those matters to be dealt with during this Judicial Week.
In effect, no Court siting will take place because the Judges will be using all the Courts across the country to expedite the process in a transparent manner, says the statement from the Judiciary.