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Sierra Leone News: SL Judiciary on bail and sentencing

The Chairman of the Bail and Sentencing Working Group, Justice Nicolas C. Browne-Marke and his team of judges have embarked on a massive public education campaign on the new Bail and Sentencing Guidelines that have been developed and are expected to be in full operation.
Timap For Justice and Prison Watch Sierra Leone were hired by the judiciary to organize town hall meetings as a way of popularizing the Guideline in eight major towns including Kono, Kenema, and Kailahun in the east, Makeni and Port Loko in the north, Bo and Moyamba in the south and in Freetown from the 26 to the 31 July, 2017.
According to Justices of the Superior Court of Judicature, in 2015, the Judiciary of Sierra Leone supported by its development partners – UNDP and US Department of State, were put to task by the people of this country to develop a new Bail and Sentencing Guidelines.
The said Guidelines will address the huge existing discrepancies in bail and sentencing of like-minded crimes in the country. According to Justice Browne-Marke, while addressing residents in these locations, “Today, we have completed our work, we have come with the Bail and Sentencing Guidelines that is owned and to be validated by you”.
Speaking on issues relating to bail, Justice Komba Kamanda explained the Judiciary of Sierra Leone has developed a bail regulation that makes provisions for what he described as “self-bail” added to the existing bail through surety”.
Justice Kamanda disclosed Magistrate Courts must ensure that bail is granted as a matter of right for offenses which carry a maximum term of imprisonment if found guilty, of less than five years, such as insulting conduct or language, intimidation, criminal trespass and other minor Public Order Offences under the Public Order Act of 1965 and minor traffic offences under the Road Traffic Act, 2007.
According to Justice Kamanda, “the Court must ensure and do all it could to put on bail any person under the age of eighteen years, accused person who is seriously sick, has physical and mental disabilities, pregnant women, lactating mothers or breastfeeding mothers, a man or a woman who is responsible for looking after his/her children in the home”.
On exceptional offences, Justice Browne-Marke, informed the gatherings that inasmuch as the above have been made as matter of right and must for Magistrates and Judges in the Judiciary of Sierra Leone, there are certain offences where the above are not a matter of rights but matter of the law and the discretion of judge.
Justice Browne Marke maintained offences that carry the death penalties like Murder, Treason, Robbery with Aggravation and Robbery with Violence, bail can be granted only by a judge and in a situation where he/she has verified beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused person(s) is not at flight risk and could appear in Court when require.
“The Leadership strongly hold the view that sending to prison at a trial stage for minor offences is a bad practice and that must stop”. Justice Nicolas Browne-Marke said.
The Supreme Court Judge said, offences that carry a maximum of life imprisonment such as wounding with intent; Shooting with Intent; Arson; Simple Robbery Offences charged under the Larceny Act, 1986, both Magistrates and High Courts have “the discretion” as to whether to grant bail or not.
However, for the offences that carry life imprisonment, Justice Browne-Marke said, the Court under the new bail guideline, will not grant bail if the Court proves beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused person if granted bail, will fail to appear on a subsequent adjourned dates, might commit another offence whilst out on bail, is likely to endanger members of the public, or, national security, will likely interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice and the accused is a repeated offender.
Responding to questions, Justice Browne-Marke said, if pregnant woman, physically challenged people, primary caregivers of children are found guilty of committing a crime, they must be sentenced noting that granting of bail is not the end of the case and that bail must not be seen as means of punishment.
The town hall meetings were broadcast by various community radio stations like Eastern Community Radio in Kono, Radio New Song in Bo, Eastern Radio in Kenema, Radio Mankneh in Makeni, Radio Mocar in Moyamba and reported by several radio and television stations in the Freetown including AYV, Star and SLBC televisions.
AMK/31/7/17
By Alhaji M. Kamara
Tuesday August 01, 2017.

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