The seventy participants for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funded workshop will be drawn from the Council of Tribal Headmen, legal aid service providers, human rights organizations, Sierra Leone Labour Congress, Sierra Leone Motor Drivers Union, Sierra Leone Traders Council, civil society organizations and the Inter-religious Council of Sierra Leone.
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Claire Carlton-Hanciles has welcomed the proposed Bail and Sentencing Guidelines in changing perceptions about the judiciary which is seen as unfair and punitive. She described the workshop as an opportunity for partners of the Board to be educated on the proposed Bail and Sentencing Guidelines so as to understand how they will be applied by the Judiciary.
‘The Board has increased access to justice around the country but has failed to reduce the numbers in detention, this is a matter of grave concern for us,’ she lamented. ‘The proposed guidelines will surely reverse this trend because detention will be a last resort and for the shortest possible time. In addition, there will be alternative sentencing options and a number of factors will have to be taken into consideration in assessing bail.’
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said that Bail and Sentencing are very sensitive issues for the public especially the Board’s clients – the poor and vulnerable. She added that people are confused regarding the inconsistency with which Bail and Sentencing are applied by the judiciary. ‘When different sentences or bail conditions are imposed for the same crime, people get confused and feel the judiciary is not fair,’ she said.
The Executive Director for Lady Ellen Women’s Aid Foundation, one of the leading legal aid service providers in the Western Rural District, Mohamed Jalloh has welcomed the training opportunity. He believes the new Bail and Sentencing Guidelines will have an instant impact in building confidence in the judiciary. ‘People feel they are not being granted bail or they are given lengthen sentences because they are poor and these are issues we have struggle to explain to people,’ he said.
The workshop will be held in Kenema for partners in the Eastern Region on the 18 and 19 July, Bo for those in the Southern Region on the 20 and 21 July and in Makeni for the Northern Region on the 1 and 2 August 2017.