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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Legal Aid Board Meets 1,482 Pademba Inmates

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Legal Aid Board Meets 1,482 Pademba Inmates

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‘The inmates started their football league today but have readily accepted to stop the match for some time for the meeting,’ the Prison Officer told Ms. Carlton-Hanciles and team as they ushered them into the field.

Amidst thunderous applause, Ms. Carlton-Hanciles told the inmates that the Board has represented and secured the release of many inmates in the past and will continue to do so in the New Year. She added that the Board has held meetings with the Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards to address their justice needs.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said those without a lawyer will have Legal Aid Counsels to take up their cases. ‘We have lawyers in the High Courts who will represent you,’ she assured them, adding ‘For those of you in the Magistrate Courts, you will have to bear with us because most of our lawyers are in the High Court. This notwithstanding, the Board will assign more lawyers to the Magistrate Court to represent you.’

She told those who have been on remand for long period without trial due to the fact that the the jury have not been constituted, that the Board will discuss the issue with the Chief Justice to look at how they could commence their trial. ‘I am talking specifically about those charged with Murder and Robbery with Aggravation,’ Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said.

She said the Board will be commissioning a study in the New Year to look at the types of offences, length of sentences as against the provisions in the law, age of inmates and the amount of money government spends on inmates. 

She said those who are above 50 years could be released on compassionate grounds if they continue to show good conduct and contrition. Also, condemned inmates stand a chance of having their sentences commuted or could benefit from Presidential Pardon. ‘As a Board, we will talk to the Committee so that you are pardoned provided you play your own part in showing good conduct and contrition,’ she said, adding ‘Those whose sentences are commuted could also stand a chance of being considered for pardon.’

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles appealed to the inmates to behave and be law abiding in order to make the work of the Board easier.  She noted that there will always be issues between inmates and prison officers which should be channeled through laid down rules and procedures. ‘The Judges will not feel sorry for you if they are told by a prison officer that you have been causing trouble,’ she said, adding ‘Do not deceive yourself they will take this into consideration in the judgments.’

Speaking on behalf of those who are not on trial particularly those charged with murder, Alfred who claims to be the son of ex-President Momoh said they have not been on trial, what’s more no time has been set for one. He called for the intervention of the Board to ensure they have their day in Court. He also drew attention to the case of Alexandra who is charged with murder and has been remanded at the Pademba Road Correctional Center since 2012.

Dakiyai who spoke on behalf of those without indictment said he has been remanded at the center since 25 January 2014.  He wants the Board to assist with securing their indictment. Omaska spoke on behalf of Condemned Inmates.  He claimed that some of them were convicted without any strong evidence.

Santigie who is serving a 66-year prison term spoke on behalf of those serving long sentences. He said he received such a lengthen sentence even though he was not caught with any weapon not even a knife. He added that there is another inmate serving 95 years.

Among those who claimed to be children but had their ages inflated while they were being investigated by the police include Ibrahim aged 15. He is charged with Murder and has been on remand since March 2015. Also, Aruna 17 is charged with Robbery with Violence, Martin 17 is charged with Robbery with Aggravation and Victor 17 is charged with Robbery and has been remanded at the Pademba Road Correctional Center since April 2018.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said she does not have time to take all their questions but assured them that come January 2020, Legal Aid Counsels will come to the Correctional Center to meet with each of them and then bring their issues to the attention of the Chief Justice.

Prior to the meeting Ms. Carlton-Hanciles spoke to three inmates in the reception area before they were released from the Correctional Center after serving a month’s sentence for loitering. He told Santigie a Driver, Mohamed a Tiller and Foday a Vehicle Apprentice to be law abiding and focus on their respective trades to rebuild their lives.

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