Transformative Changes in Sierra Leone Judiciary Under New Leadership

By Amin Kef (Ranger)

In a remarkable turn of events, the Judiciary of Sierra Leone has undergone a profound transformation in the past three months, spearheaded by the appointment of Honourable Justice Nicholas Colin Browne-Marke (JSC) as Acting Chief Justice. Appointed by His Excellency Brigadier Retired Julius Maada Bio on December 7, 2023, Justice Browne-Marke’s tenure has heralded a period of significant reform and a renewed commitment to judicial integrity.

The appointment of Justice Browne-Marke was met with widespread acclaim, not only from the public but also from within the Judiciary and the legal fraternity. Since assuming office, he has taken decisive steps aimed at revamping the Judiciary and reinstating its core values.

One of the foremost initiatives undertaken by Justice Browne-Marke was the overhaul of Human Resource Management within the Judiciary. Utilizing the mandate provided by the Courts Act of 1965, the Acting Chief Justice, in consultation with Judicial Management, initiated a comprehensive transfer and posting exercise for judicial staff in 2024. This move, grounded in principles of independence, equality, impartiality, accountability and integrity, aimed to reestablish best practices in staff deployment and curtail any semblance of favoritism.

Addressing the longstanding issue of backlog cases, Justice Browne-Marke swiftly prioritized their assignment to Judges upon assuming office. Over 500 backlog cases languishing in the Chief Justice’s office were promptly allocated to Judges, a move hailed for its commitment to transparency and fairness.

Furthermore, the Acting Chief Justice moved to eradicate the arbitrary removal of cases once assigned to Judges or Magistrates mid-proceedings, a practice that had long undermined the credibility of the judicial process. Under Justice Browne-Marke’s leadership, cases are now steadfastly retained by the assigned judicial officer unless compelling reasons necessitate otherwise, ensuring the integrity of ongoing proceedings.

In a bid to streamline operations within the Court of Appeal, Justice Browne-Marke introduced fixed panels, replacing the erstwhile ad-hoc system that had led to logistical challenges and potential bias. This reform, endorsed by Judges, has not only expedited the adjudication process but also fostered fairness and equitable case distribution.

The Acting Chief Justice’s proactive stance extended to addressing the needs of Regional Courts. Notably, he activated the Justice of the Peace (JP’s) Court to handle minor matters and facilitated the commencement of court sittings in previously underserved areas, such as Pujehun. Additionally, recognizing the burgeoning caseload in the Western Area Rural District, he conducted a needs assessment tour to ascertain the feasibility of establishing a High Court in Waterloo, a move aimed at enhancing access to justice for local residents.

In fostering collaboration across the criminal justice system, Justice Browne-Marke has nurtured cordial relationships with key stakeholders, ensuring expeditious execution of court orders and seamless coordination in legal proceedings.

Moreover, he has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to upholding adoption laws and preventing child trafficking, exemplified by engagements with international experts and meticulous scrutiny of adoption applications.

In just three months, the Judiciary under Justice Nicholas Browne-Marke’s stewardship has embarked on a trajectory of progress and accountability. While challenges persist, the groundwork laid by the Acting Chief Justice holds promise for a Judiciary characterized by fairness, efficiency, and unwavering adherence to the rule of law.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here