By Fatmata Jengbe
A team from National Commission for Children (NCC) comprising Commissioner, Joyce Wuyah Abu and Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Alhaji Kolleh Yillah on the 27 May 2020 held a meeting with the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles at the Board’s head office on Wilberforce Street in Freetown on 27 May 2020.
The objective of the meeting was to find ways to decongest juvenile detention facilities amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic. Both Ms. Carlton-Hanciles and Ms. Abu expressed delight at working together on children’s issues particularly those relating to their rights and pledged to redouble collaboration of these issues.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles assured the NCC that the Board will continue to provide legal assistance to children and also collect relevant data on juveniles. She welcomed the NCC to join the Board in its routine visits to correctional centres across the country.
Both discussed the issue of child offenders who are still on remand because they cannot meet the prohibitive bail conditions and those are granted bail but have no home or place to return to.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles urged the NCC Commissioner to partner with the Don Bosco Fambul which has safe homes for children in conflict with the law, noting that the latter is constructing homes for diversion of remand children as opposed to them being sent to remand homes. ‘This is very important for referral of juveniles who are desperately in need of help,’ she said.
She also noted that on many occasions, children are detained with adults when sent on remand. She drew attention to the fact that there are two remand homes in the country. Ms. Abu drew attention to the call from UNICEF to decongest remand homes and other detention facilities for children.
Both Ms. Carlton-Hanciles and Ms. Abu agreed to meet with the Chief Justice on the issue of bail for juveniles. “We don’t have to wait until we have a COVID-19 case in a Juvenile Remand Home before we can act,” Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said.