Jusu Kallon Esq.: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 July 2020:
So much to take home from the just concluded treason trial involving the country’s former Defence and Internal Affairs Minister, Mr. Alfred Paolo Conteh. I am minded to focus on one.
Celebrating the verdict, my brother and colleague, Ady Macauley who served as one of the defense counsel for Mr. Alfred Paolo Conteh, had this to say on his Facebook page: “12 men and women of his peers (the jury) have found AlfredPaloConteh Not guilty on all Treason Charges …”
We now know how funny and interesting life can be – friends become enemies and enemies become friends. Yes. All due to the fact that (we) humans are truly fickle.
Thanks to a handful of private practitioners (lawyers) and the clairvoyance of few individual patriots who, in 2017, opposed the then Ernest Bai Koroma’s APC government for attempting to remove and do away with Jury Trial from our law book(s).
In other words, trials such as treason should be done by Judge alone. Worse still, was the fact that not even the Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) was engaged or consulted.
As a matter of fact, a meeting held at the British Council to deliberate on the shambolic proposal could only prove inconclusive. Surfeit to say that a certain natural mystic could not allow to Parliament.
Hands in the air and across the chest, there was determination from the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice back then to have Jury trial done with. The spurious argument advanced by government enthusiasts then was that Jury trial enhanced delay in trials as they (jurors) invariably hardly show up in court albeit there are laws against such absenteeism. Have I mentioned that jurors are not remunerated in Sierra Leone!?
The Alfred Paolo Conteh trial inter alia has rubbished such argument. Need I say more!?
Am not a typical criminal practitioner of a lawyer. However, I can bet my land in Yemen that a serious criminal practitioner is unlikely to agree with the motion that there should not be a trial by jury rather, by judge alone – especially with a serious criminal charge.
At least we can all now attest to what it truly means for one to be tried by one’s peers.
We must be extremely careful with power. As a people and country, we must be always circumspect with the way we seek to introduce new laws, review or amend old laws and the way and manner we go about copying pieces of legislation from other countries and jurisdictions.
Sad though, that history finds it very hard to teach us all.
Mr. Alfred Paolo Conteh may have just benefitted from a provision of the law (that) the APC government he diligently served so strenuously tried to get rid of. Well, matter-of-factly, my friend and brother, did not say “may”.