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False imprisonment of Petty Traders must stop – LAB Director orders Metro Police

False imprisonment of Petty Traders must stop – LAB Director orders Metro Police

The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles has told Metropolitan Police Officers that they must stop detaining petty traders who are suspected of violating municipal laws because it is illegal to do so. She made the remark at a legal education meeting with a cross section of Metropolitan Police Officers in the conference room of the Freetown City Council last Thursday.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles who was accompanied by the Consultant to the Board prominent legal luminary Francis Gabbidon told the Metropolitan Police that she understands the difficulties they face in enforcing municipal laws especially regarding street trading in prohibited areas but stressed it must not be an excused to violate rights and do false imprisonment.  ‘Petty traders are not criminals and therefore should be treated with respect,’ she said.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said traders have told her the Metropolitan Police operate a private cell where they are detained for hours on end. She told the officers that detaining petty traders have far reaching consequences including lawsuit against them.

‘Even though you have the right to arrest like every other citizen you do not have the authority under any law to detain,’ she warned.  ‘You should arrest and hand-over to the police immediately because they are the only people with the authority to detain otherwise action could be taken against you for false imprisonment.’

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles also warned the officers against coming into confrontation with the petty traders because the law does not officer them enough protection like it does for the Sierra Leone Police. She therefore advised that they should call in the police immediately they are faced with a crisis situation.

She further warned the officers against arresting wares of traders without following the proper procedures which involves making a list of the items and having the trader sign the form on which they are written. She pointed out that when the arrested items involve perishable good and cooked food they could get spoilt if held on to for long hours. ‘Some of your actions may have unintended consequences which may result in legal action and compensation claims,’ she stressed.

She assured the officers that she will work with them to make their work less stressful. She hinted that she will bring the Traders Council on board to help in enforcing law and order within its ranks.   ‘We have been able to unite the various factions in the Petty Traders Association under the Traders Council,’ she said. ‘We will use the Council to work with you in policing their members.’

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles also promised to provide the Metro Police with training opportunities in human rights and enforcement of municipal laws.

Metropolitan Officers raised the issue of the size of the force which currently stands as 122 as a key challenge affecting their work. This is coupled with poor conditions of service wherein promotions do not go with increase in salary. There is also the issue of logistics including vehicle to do their work. ‘We do not have a vehicle or a motorcycle and this is making our work very strenuous,’ one of the Metro Police officers said.

As part of the solution to the problem between traders and the Metro Police, the Executive Director warmed up to the idea of decriminalizing street trading for certain area like you have in other developed countries.

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