By Judiciary of Sierra Leone
The British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Her Excellency, Lisa Chesney MBE, said she is impressed with the progress at the Judiciary under the leadership of His Lordship Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards.
Whilst referencing the recent Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) rating with 63% pass mark in the Rule of Law, the British High Commissioner went further to commend the Judiciary for such a progress.
The 2022 Country Performance Scorebook is the 19th publication of country performance data since the establishment of the MCC.
The MCC scorecard rating recognises the many reforms at the Judiciary including the deployment of Magistrates in all Districts and Judges in places where there were no sitting Judges.
Even though she pointed out challenges, the British High Commissioner said, “thank you for the reforms and transformation within the Judiciary.”
She assured of her institution’s support to the Judiciary including the professional training of Judges. She also raised concern on the 2023 elections and the Judiciary’s preparedness in handling electoral offences.
Welcoming the British High Commissioner, the Hon. Chief Justice Edwards thanked and appreciated her courtesy visit and commendation in recognition of the reforms at the Judiciary.
The Chief Justice mentioned the establishment of the eight specialized divisions of the High Court including the Sexual Offences Model Court; the Social Security Court; Anti-Corruption Court and now the Small Claims Court, all unprecedented for the first time.
He went on to note that amidst the many achievements recorded so far in the area of increased access to justice, expeditious trials have been possible in places where no High Court sessions in the provinces were held before but were now privileged to have Magistrates and Resident Judges.
Explaining the operation of the first Sexual Offences Model Court in the sub-region, he said the Court has unique features such as an independent registry, Judges’ chambers, victims’ protection witness box, prepping section, child friendly waiting rooms and television screens to video-play and do video recording of witness evidence taken at the One Stop Centers or the police stations.
He said there is marked improvement in the conviction rate of sexual offence cases from less than 2% to 20%, adding how challenging this issue was all over the world.
“The Information Desk at the Sexual Offences Model Court helps workers to calm and talk to victims though some work was needed in protecting women,” he said.
Responding to the question on how he responds to critics of taking sides at the last election and not allowing a rerun, the Hon. Chief Justice said, “the Law is the Judge’s master, and the law is looked at in terms of what comes before us”.
He used the occasion to allay the fears of the British High Commissioner ahead of the 2023 national elections, stating that, “we would do our best and follow the Law”
In attendance were Supreme Court Judge, Hon. Justice Alusine Sesay and Court of Appeal Judge, Hon. Justice Tonia Barnett.