Contrary to wide spread speculations that some Magistrates are ill bent on corrupt practices such as receiving bribes, the Master and Registrar of the Freetown High Court of Sierra Leone Elwyn Bailor has submitted that Magistrates are covered by criminal proceeding Act; which disallows them to take sides in any matter regarding legality.
He said that when a Magistrate passes his ruling, any party that feels cheated has right to appeal.
On the recent suspension of two Magistrates, he noted, the Anti Corruption Commission only invited them for questioning, but could not ascertain as to whether it was for any corrupt act or not; adding that the judiciary has not sacked any of the two Magistrates but only suspended them to permit ACC to carry out their functions judiciously.
“If there is any doubt over any seating Magistrate we will not allow him to preside over any matter, as it is done in the best interest of the public and judiciary” he explained.
With reference to the nine re-assigned Magistrates to the various judicial Districts in the Country, the Master and Registrar observed that the decision to transfer them was expedient for judicial proceeding; adding that staying in one locality for long might be dangerous and counter productive to the dispensation of justice as many would have acquainted with the bench and hence influence judicial proceedings. With regard the frequent disappearance of case files in Court, he said, such matters have not been brought to his notice, but he however stated that the court heavily rely on the Magistrates and Court clerks to ensure the safety of files.
He acknowledged that some of the Magistrate Courts in the Districts seat without lawyers to defend clients, but noted that there are prosecutors with a wealth of experience to prosecute cases. “It is better that way because most lawyers hardly travel to the Provinces to defend clients because of the deplorable road net work in the country; besides people in those areas are too poor to contract the services of lawyers to fight their cases” he said. He stated that, if the senior lawyers attend Courts in the Provinces, they might be tempted to misdirect the Magistrates. He maintained that Magistrates are doing fine with their basic government salaries with top up from UNDP and DFID. “Gone are the days when we depend on government for everything as donor organizations like DFID and UNDP are now providing us with adequate supports” he stated. Amongst the nine re-assigned Magistrates are: A.S Fadiwa re-assigned to court No. 2; Stevens Con to court No.1; K. Kamada re-assigned to Kenema ,Tongo and Blama; Moody to Maburaka and Mile 91; C.J Cole to Freetown Court No. 6; Tonia M’bawa to Freetown Court No.5 to preside over juvenile cases; A T .Ganda to Port Loko; H. H Sandy to Bo and M. Bawoh to Moyamba and Bonthe.
By Solomon Rogers