Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 November 2022:
Yesterday Wednesday, President Bio presided over the swearing-in of 261 Justices of the Peace, JPs at State House, after they were recommended as Sierra Leoneans with distinguished records of serving their respective communities across the country. The JPs will work in local courts to settle disputes and preside over oaths.
“This is a huge responsibility as my government continues to reform the justice sector and increase access to justice for all. As Justices of the Peace, you must support the work and mandate of the judiciary to ensure that we achieve expeditious and fair trials all over Sierra Leone,” he said.
The President cited Section 13(1) of the Courts Act of 1965, which provides for any fit and proper person to be a justice of the peace. He said that based on the advice of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the necessary due diligence was carried out to ensure that all of them were suitable to serve in that capacity.
“As Justices of the Peace, your principal functions include to serve as lay magistrates in public order offences, to carry out institutions for the preservation of peace and order in such magisterial districts, to render all assistance possible in suppressing disorder or disturbance in such magisterial districts, and to give counsel and advice and be able to interact at all levels and with all types of individuals in your communities,” he said.
He, however, cautioned that as they take up office, they also undertake to truly serve the office of the Justice of the Peace and as such, they are expected to be of good behaviour at all times in the discharge of their duties.
“It must also be noted that the appointment of Justices of the Peace is not an honour, award, or distinction conferred for services rendered, but an appointment by careful and sedulous selection to an office of service to the community. Let the ethical principles be your guide in the dispensation of your duties. You must be independent, impartial and unbiased. You must avoid all conflicts of interest, whether real or perceived, and be responsible for promptly taking appropriate steps to disclose, resolve, or obtain advice with respect to such conflicts whenever they arise,” he urged.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice said that as Justices of the Peace, their primary responsibility is to help keep the peace and to support the vision of the judiciary in bringing accessible, fair, and expeditious justice to all in Sierra Leone.
“You will be used in various and specific areas, including as lay magistrates in addressing public order offences, as lay magistrates in juvenile courts, with a magistrate sitting with two or more JPs, as lay magistrates with two of you in a panel to constitute one magistrate, and in a family court to handle issues of parenting in respect to children,” he said.