Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 August 2020:
Veteran lawyer and one-time presidential aspirant – Barrister Charles Francis Margai lashed out in Magistrate Court No. 1 last Friday, August 14th 2020, at the deplorable decline in judiciary standards and increasing sloppiness and recklessness of Sierra Leone government’s law officers in administering justice.
The learned and one of the most respected barristers in the country, spoke in anger and frustration, after Magistrate Hannah Bonnie presiding over the government’s seditious libel case against Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, had to adjourn sitting once again because the police prosecutor, witness and government law officers failed to appear in court.
“Lawyer Margai, I have listened to you and let me say it now that if there is no witness at the next adjourned date, I am assuring you that I will throw this matter out of this court. Although the Criminal Procedure Act does not state how many times a matter can be adjourned without progress on the part of the prosecution, I always use my discretion to ensure accused persons are not made to suffer prolonged hearings due to the prosecution failing to bring witnesses.
“I am adjourning this matter for ten days until 24th August which is a Monday. If on that Monday, no witness is here to testify against Dr. Sylvia Blyden, I will throw this matter out and discharge her from Court on all charges,” Magistrate Hannah Bonnie told lawyer Charles Margai.
According to lawyer Margai who has served Sierra Leone as a lawyer for 50 years, the standards in justice delivery have dropped in a manner “far below what we used to condemn just five years ago”.
When the case was called last Friday, there was not even a police prosecutor present in court. Also, there was no Witness present. What is even worse was that, the government’s lawyer handling the case, Yusif I. Sesay Esq. was also absent without courtesy of an apology to the Bench or to Lawyer Margai to explain why.
Similarly, when the magistrate enquired as to whether any Witness was around who had been summoned by the State to testify for the State in that matter, there was silence. It was at this point that Lawyer Charles Margai stood up and requested to be heard.
In open court, Lawyer Margai made it very clear that standards within the justice sector have dropped badly under the current SLPP led dispensation to a level hitherto unseen in-country.
Lawyer Margai was angered by the lack of respect shown to the court by the State lawyer who could not even be bothered to send apologies to the court. He said that what he and others used to condemn over five years ago under the former Koroma APC government – regarding poor standards in the Justice Sector, have worsened under the current government.
Immediately after winning the 2018 elections, President Julius Maada Bio appointed Lawyer Charles Margai to serve as his first Attorney General and Minister of Justice (AGMOJ) to help clean up the country’s justice sector. (Photo: Margai swearing his oath of office).
However, within few months of appointing Margai as AGMOJ, President Bio sacked Margai without giving Margai a chance to reform the justice sector.
President Bio on sacking Margai, went on to appoint Dr. Priscilla Schwartz as his new AGMOJ. However, Dr. Priscilla Schwartz was also sacked a few weeks ago because of incompetence. She has been described as “the worst Attorney General in entire history of Sierra Leone”. President Bio went on to appoint Barrister Anthony Y. Brewah, who is now in control of the government’s law officers department.
Meanwhile, Magistrate Hannah Bonnie has adjourned the “State versus Sylvia Blyden” matter for another ten days to August 24th, 2020 whilst openly expressing her concerns over the consecutive lack of progress by the government’s law officers department.
Dr Sylvia Blyden (Photo) who is aspiring to enter the presidential race in Sierra Leone at some point, was charged with Seditious Libel against President Julius Maada Bio and the Bio/SLPP-led Government on May 22nd, 2020.
Following her arrest, the government ordered the Judiciary to keep Blyden in jail on grounds that the alleged seditious libel against the President is a “threat to national security”.
After three months of proceedings, the State is yet to tender any evidence of the so called ‘Blyden’s threat to national security’ trumped-up by the government.
What the government’s law officers have so far tendered in court as evidence is a large portrait of the former president Ernest Bai Koroma which they alleged was found in the private residence of Dr. Sylvia Blyden.
The State is yet to show the court how possession of the former president’s portrait tantamount to a breach of national security.
The case continues.