Judiciary of Sierra Leone Communications
Sierra Leone’s Chief Justice, His Lordship Honourable Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards over the weekend launched the maiden edition of the Judiciary’s Newsletter on the operations of the Sexual Offences Model Court since its establishment and commissioning by President Dr. Julius Maada Bio.
Speaking at the launching ceremony at Hotel Barmoi in Freetown, the Hon. Chief Justice said that the Court has been very instrumental in the fight against the menace of sexual assaults of women and girls for which an introspection into its operations so far was necessary for continued effective service delivery.
He noted that the newsletter outlines data analysis, successes, challenges and recommendations in the fight against sexual crimes in the country.
The Sexual Offences Model Court was commissioned on 24th July, 2020 at the main Law Courts Building in Freetown. Full operations started on 3rd August, 2020.
The objectives of the Court are to provide effective victim-witness support services that will reduce trauma, eliminate secondary victimization, increase victim’s cooperation and attendance at trial and ensure a timely completion of matters.
In commemoration of its one year anniversary amid the remarkable successes gained in the fight against sexual crimes, a two days training was organised for Judges presiding over sexual offence cases, adding to other trainings on professional development.
The training which commenced on Thursday 5th August 2021, was organized by the Judiciary through the Judicial & Legal Training Institute (JLTI) in collaboration with Defence For Children International Sierra Leone with support from Equality Now.
In his opening remarks on Thursday marking the official start of the training, the Hon. Chief Justice noted that trainings of such nature are a step in the right direction especially as society continues to ‘wrestle’ with the menace of sexual assault against women and girls.
He stressed that the training specifically targets judges adjudicating cases of sexual offences on the management of trials for the effective handling of the intricacies that accompany the trials.
He said that the training is part of ongoing efforts that reaffirm the Judiciary’s commitment in the fight against sexual offences in light of effective service delivery in the handling of such cases.
While he thanked Equality Now and other partners for their support in making the training a reality, the Hon. Chief Justice encouraged judges to fully participate and share experiences that would be helpful in successfully adjudicating cases.
In her remarks, Executive Director Defence for Children International Sierra Leone, Abdul Manaff Kemokai said that his organization and other partners saw the need to focus on improving access to justice for victims and survivals of sexual assault for which they secured funding.
While he assured the Judiciary of their continued search for more resources to partner with the Judiciary in improving access to justice, Mr. Kemokai thanked the Hon. Chief Justice for ensuring that arrangements leading to the training went smoothly, professionally and speedily.
In her Zoom statement from Nairobi Kenya, Director of Equality Now, Madam Faiza Mohamed said her organization seeks to achieve legal and systematic change that addresses violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world.
She said they strive for a society where women and girls have the same rights as men and boys as well as tackling the most difficult issues challenging women and girls.
She went on to note that the training offers judges and other stakeholders an opportunity to hear about the challenges faced by victims of sexual and gender based violence experience in accessing justice in Sierra Leone.
Outlining the objectives of the training, the Director of the Judicial & Legal Training Institute (JLTI), Hon. Justice Emmanuel Eku Roberts (JSC) noted that the training was designed to ensure competence, provide refresher on the substantive law, procedures and practices, raise awareness in handling social media and the general public and what judges need in the discharge of their duties among others.
The training attracted participants from Defence For Children Sierra Leone, Equality Now, Rainbo Centre, Sierra Leone Police and the Law Officer’s Department in the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice among others.
Honourable Justice Glenna Thompson (JSC) tutored on Special Measures in Trials of Sexual Offences in light of best practices, Justice Alusine Sesay (JSC) on the mode of approaching the High Court (Criminal) generally and Justice Monfred Sesay (JA) on the management of trials of sexual offences.
Dr. Christin Williams lectured on expert (medical) evidence in sexual offences; Detective Assistant Superintendent of Police, Thomas Robin Mansaray who doubles as head of the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the Sierra Leone Police lectured on the steps and challenges in investigating sexual offences; Daniel Kettor, head of Rainbow Initiative talked on experiences in investigating sexual offences and State Counsel Joseph A.K Sesay presented on prosecutorial perspective in prosecuting sexual offences.