SIERRA LEONE: Attorney General to address ‘Petty Crimes’

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Charles Francis Margai, said he will work together with judges to solve issues around petty crimes. He said instead of sending offenders to prisons for minor offences it would be good to do community services or other options.

Attorney General Margai said he will work with the judiciary and embark on a nationwide tour and visit courts and prisons. He will see who are behind the bars that are not supposed to and speedily attain to their matters.

He however assured that, “I will not say I will solve everything but I will try to do justice in that direction,” he stated.

Petty Offences are those that are not unlawful but do not meet the principles of legality this according to the 366 resolution on the need to develop principles on the declassification and decriminalization of petty offences in Africa, African leaders agreed at the extraordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People’ Rights (ACHPR) in The Gambia, and adopted the Ouagadougou declaration and plan of action on accelerating Prisons and penal reforms in the continent.

According to the ACHPR reports, the enforcement of petty offences have the effect of punishing, segregating, controlling and undermining persons on the basis of their status, and further infringe on the autonomy of persons by restricting their performance of socio-economic activities in public places.

The Attorney General revealed that a few days ago he had an informal meeting with the Solicitor General and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to do a comprehensive list of all cases at remand with their allegations. He stressed that it will not be good for offenders of petty crimes to be in remand for 12 months and beyond. He said he will ensure his office and the justice sectors speedily find an alternative measures for petty offences.

A senior police officer, Alhaji Kapr (not his real name), said the issue of petty offences must not be over looked stressing that offenders of those offences are depriving innocent people from enjoying what is due to them thereby causing distress. He said as a police their duty is to ensure the lives and properties of all citizens and foreigners are protected and free from crime stating that in the event of dispensing their duty whosoever go against the law will be dealt with accordingly by the law.

The police officer emphasized that during festive seasons in particular they are concentrated more on curbing petty crimes like mobile phones snatching, petty robberies, and assault, among others. He said based on their proactive moves lots of those offenders have minimized their activities thereby saving more families from been victims.

The African Commission on Human and People’ Rights (ACHPR) are calling on state parties to the Charter to declassify and decriminalize minor offences, such as being a vagabond, loitering, prostitution, failure to pay debts and disobedience to parents,’ as a strategy for reducing prison overcrowding.

Gassan Abess from the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), said during a regional conference in Sierra Leone on ‘Petty Offences’ in 2017 informed, “If petty offences are decriminalized, government can save more money on food for inmates on a daily basis.” He went on, “Government spends Le60,000 to feed one inmate per day of which many inmates in correctional centres and police custody were arrested for committing petty offences,” he confirmed.

According to Article 45(1)(b) of the African Charter, “It is mandatory to formulate and lay down principles and rules aimed at solving legal problems relating to human and peoples rights and fundamental freedom upon which African governments may base their legislation.”

Melody Kazah, representative from the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF) defines petty offences as, “Minor offences for which the punishment is prescribed by law to carry a warning, community service, a low value fine or short term of imprisonment, often for failure to pay the fine.”

She said petty offences are ‘inconsistent’ with Articles 2, 3, and 18 of the African Charter on the right to equality and non-discrimination. She said they are inconsistent with the principles of equality before the law and non-discrimination on the basis that they either target, or have a disproportionate impact on poor, vulnerable persons, key populations or on the basis of gender.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice assured that he will use the stick and carrot to solve the issue of indiscipline in the country thereby ensuring that justice is for everybody irrespective of who you are and to bring back that confidence to the people of Sierra Leone.

He said his team will work with all the judiciary and other organs connected with the justice sector in the dispensation and moving justice forward with hope to work in collaboration with the Minister of Internal Affairs to ensure work is done with the police to curb indiscipline.


By Mohamed Kabba ,

Twitter: @chikakabba

Friday April 20, 2018.

Story and Photo Credits:

12 July, 2018

The Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status is a coalition of organisations from across the world that advocate for the repeal of laws that target people based on poverty, status or for their activism.


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