With funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ,90 Police Investigators and Prosecutors have benefitted from a Legal Aid Board capacity-building training programme on the 2018 Bail Regulation in the Western Area Rural District.
The training which took place on the 8th May, 2023 was held at the Western Area Rural District Council Hall in Waterloo in the outskirts of Freetown .
Ninety (90) Police personnel from two judicial districts (Waterloo and York), 45 personnel from each district participated in the training which drew participants from Masiaka Police Station; Mile 38 Police Post; Four Mile Police Post; Kissy Town Police Post; 555 Police Post; Waterloo Police Division; Tombo Police Station; York and its environs.
The training marked the beginning of the third phase of the UNDP-funded project which is targeting a total of 920 Police Investigators and Prosecutors in the country’s sixteen districts.650 Personnel were trained during the first and second phase out of which 400 personnel were trained in 2021 while 250 received theirs in 2022.
The first phase targeted eight districts: Moyamba, Bo, Kambia, Port Loko, Kono, Tonkolili, Pujehun and Kailahun, while the second phase targeted five districts: Karene, Koinadugu, Falaba and Bombali in the North-East region and Bonthe in the Southern Region. The third phase, which commenced on May 8 is targeting a total of 270 personnel from three districts: Western Area Rural and Urban and Kenema districts.
The trainings are aimed at ensuring uniformity and consistency in the granting of bail both by the Police as stipulated in the 2018 Bail Regulation.
Speaking during the opening session at Waterloo, the Executive Director of the Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles noted that capacity-building for the Police is crucial in upholding professionalism in the force.
She underlined that the trainings underscore the Board’s continued commitment to making justice accessible to all especially the poor and vulnerable in remote communities adding that it will further broaden the knowledge of the Police in determining whether or not bail should be granted as prescribed in the Regulation.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles commended the leadership of the Sierra Leone Police particularly the Inspector General, William Fayia Sellu for having stood by the Board in ensuring that the training is carried out as planned. She noted that the training is a demonstration of the strong partnership between the Board and the Sierra Leone Police in addressing the challenges related to access to justice.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles also expressed gratitude to the Chief Justice, His Lordship Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards for his initiatives in expanding access to justice through the holding of the Judicial Week, Special Criminal Sessions and Prison Courts which have helped to decongest the prisons. She also lauded him for the close working relationship between the Judiciary and the Legal Aid Board which has brought about speedy trials and the decongestion of correctional facilities.
She emphasized the need for trainees to understand that bail is a fundamental human right adding that bail is free and must be seen to be free. “There are a lot of inconsistencies in the application of bail, be it at Police Stations or in the courts” she said adding that, “UNDP was very much concerned about this state of affairs hence the decision to support the Board in conducting these trainings which have been going on for the past two years.”
The Legal Aid Board Executive Director warned those in the habit of detaining suspects on frivolous grounds, opposing bail for accused persons or exchanging money for bail that they are running out of options.
She praised UNDP for its continued support to the Board which includes but not limited to support to legal representation during Criminal and Special Criminal Sessions, Prison Courts, Sexual Offences Model Court (SOMC); Building the Capacity of Paralegals to Assist Victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV); Legal Education on SGBV and Sexual Offences Act.
A PowerPoint presentation on the 2018 Bail Regulation was facilitated by Legal Aid Counsel ,Abdulai Sesay, who also doubles as the Board’s Resident Counsel for the Western Area Rural District. He explained the meaning of bail which he said is the ‘temporal release of a suspect or accused person pending further investigations or proceedings’. He noted that bail does not mean the end of the matter and as such should not be used as a means to punish people or score political points.
Counsel Sesay also explained the importance of granting bail, where to access bail, guidelines for opposing or accepting bail (such as necessity, reasonability, proportionality, enforceability), circumstances under which bail may be denied including failure to appear in court, committing of another offence while on bail, endangering the safety of victims or the public and possible interference with witness(s). He also explained what it means to be a surety and how to withdraw from being one.
He admonished the participants to follow the procedures when considering bail application, warning that “long detention of suspects at police stations or accused persons in the courts has a negative impact not only on the Police and Courts but the country as a whole”.
Statements were also made by DSP Septimus Siaka Vandi, Operations Officer Waterloo Division; Alhassan Morray, Deputy Staff Officer Training Directorate Police Headquarters and Mohamed Opeh Koroma, former Local Police Partnership Board Chairman, Waterloo who chaired the programme.
The training was climaxed with group work and presentations. Each group was given a question on the bail regulation to discuss and come up with answers.