New Director For Public Prosecutions: Implications for the Criminal Justice System
This medium broke the news over the weekend of the imminent ascent of ex-ACC investigator, Glenna Thompson to the office of Sierra Leone’s Public Prosecutor. This news was greeted with much rejoicing in Freetown, especially amongst people who have had unfortunate brushes with the criminal justice system under the last dispensation.
Under the last dispensation, part funded by the Justice Sector Development Program, the Justice Sector was concentrating on improving out of date laws, overcrowding of prisons, delays in courts, community policing, and juvenile laws. Some of the targets were to reduce crime and the fear of crime, improve case processing, government legal services, human rights, trust and accountability. Under the current dispensations, results were at best mixed, tilting more towards the negative than the positive. It is clear that the involvement of the former public prosecutor’s office had little or nothing to do with manifested improvements in the justice system. The remarkable difference in this administration has been the daily presence of the DPP in court for matters which should have been delegated to his principal prosecutors and their juniors, prompting court observers to question his interest is in those cases.
Indiscriminate remanding of persons increased alarmingly, with members of the public complaining loudly about how much they were forced to part with in order to secure bail. The ratio of remand to convicted prisoners in criminal offences has also only reduced, not increased, as should have been the case if the effects of the thousands of dollars being spent by funders on the justice sector could be said to be effective. In addition, the personal conduct of the public prosecutor and his disregard of the laws he is meant to protect has also made a mockery of his office at the best of times. He was recently filmed driving down the wrong lane on a busy city street.
The DPP’s role in a trial aims not only to persuade the judges of the government’s case that the defendant has committed a crime, but also to assure that no innocent person is wrongly convicted. Observes have seen several cases which are prosecuted on the basis of information which is not at all before the court, including rumors and conjecture.
Glenna’s advent is expected to be felt like a rose, in the midst of sickening rubbish. Formerly Head of Investigations at the Anti-corruption Commission, Glenna was accused of bias in certain instances, but has not been associated with bribe taking or corrupt activities. Married to Academician, Claudius Bart Williams, Ms Thompson holds an LLM and practiced mainly criminal law in London until 2002, when she commenced private practice in Sierra Leone.
Thompson’s work on the review of the criminal procedures act will no doubt hold her in good stead in her new role, as will her research in to the Criminal Justice Best Practice Handbook.
Abdulai Kamara, Freetown
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