The Government of Sierra Leone and JSDP Launch Pilot National Legal Aid for Sierra Leone
The Government of Sierra Leone and the Justice Sector Development Programme officially launched the Pilot National Legal Aid Scheme in Sierra Leone on 22nd April 2010 at the British Council Tower Hill, Freetown.
A major impediment to access to justice in Sierra Leone and a major cause of the delays in justice is the fact that very few people have access to legal representation in court, especially in the criminal justice system. The majority of people held in our prisons, due to lack of financial resources, have had no access to a lawyer or legal advice and assistance at any stage of their court proceedings.
Various non-governmental organizations provide some services ranging from legal advice to legal representation in court in Freetown and the Provinces. However, this work has not been coordinated between the various organizations and between the organizations and the limited State-funded programme, and there is little or no linkage between them.
As a result, the Government is focused on establishing a sustainable, affordable, credible and accessible national legal aid scheme for Sierra Leonean citizens who cannot afford to pay for the services of a lawyer.
In November 2008, JSDP facilitated a roundtable discussion on a legal aid scheme for Sierra Leone. Following extensive consultation with the Government of Sierra Leone and a wide range of key stake holders, the Justice Sector Development Programme (JSDP) was tasked with the responsibility of providing a pilot in Freetown as a precursor to the national legal aid scheme. Due to the myriad of cases in Freetown as opposed to the provinces, it was decided that the pilot would run in Freetown.
The mandate given to JSDP was to develop a legal aid scheme that would be independent of Government and provide legal representation, assistance and advice to those who were unable to afford such services. It was also tasked with developing draft legislation to support the establishment of a national legal aid scheme for Sierra Leone.
In his address to Parliament in November 2009, His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma stated â€œMr. Speaker, my government is determined to address the rightful claims of the ordinary citizens for access to Justice â€¦ to assist poor defendants; we are piloting a national legal aid scheme in Freetown which we hope to roll out to every districtâ€.
Subsequently, in December 2009, a small team of lawyers, supported by legal assistants (paralegals) was established through the support of Government and JSDP, to form the Pilot National Legal Aid (PNLA) Scheme. The pilot began operating on the 6th January 2010.
The main emphasis initially is on the provision of advice, assistance and representation, in the criminal justice system at the entry points of prisons, police stations and courts with particular emphasis on the use of legal assistants (paralegals) for disseminating advice and information to the widest possible audience. Civil cases with a significant public element may be undertaken at the discretion of the Project Director.
The Government of Sierra Leone marks a significant milestone with the launch of this Pilot in the journey towards providing equal access to justice for all its citizens, legally empowering the poor and providing a more stable and just society.Pilot National Legal Aid (PNLA), Opening the Doors to Justice
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It sounds good but not in Sierra Leone, where the Law is in the pocket of the Rich. Lawyer that are fully paid middle with cases what about free service for the poor?.22nd April 2010
The Judiciary is the most corrupt institution in Sierra Leone, no matter what effort is put in place, the right of the poor is far fetched
The journey starts from the police stations down to the suprime levels in the country. No justice for the porr in Sierra Leone,Never-Ever