The externs in professional mode

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Legal Education at Prince of Wales & Annie Walsh Secondary Schools

By Vivienne Esther Kabia, Extern, LAWYERS

On the 5th of June 2012, Alimamy Koroma (a fellow extern) and I went to the Prince of Wales Secondary School to do a legal education session.  It was quite an interesting encounter.  The pupils asked a lot of questions and kept referring to me as Ms. Vivienne.

This post is a follow-up on one of these questions.  Apparently, a certain number of these young pupils had at some point had a form of contact with a particular law enforcement agency “the police” and as such they expressed concern towards the issue of arrest, specifically the justifiable amount of force that is applicable whilst making an arrest.

Arrest is one procedure of the criminal aspect of law to which many people can’t relate.  It is the act of depriving a person of his or her liberty usually in relation to the purported investigation or prevention of a crime, and for presenting the arrestee to a procedure of the criminal justice system. Arrest involved taking a person into custody and detaining him for some period.  In Sierra Leone, it is the primary duty of members of the police force to arrest persons.  There are also certain other authorities who can make arrests to a certain limit: Magistrates within the limits of their specific jurisdiction; military officers also have the power to make arrests but it is limited to other military personnel.

The question of level of force allowed in making an arrest is provided for in the Criminal Procedures Act of 1965.  Various recent occurrences had roused the interest of these students, in seeking to ascertain how much force is actually required to make an arrest.  Let’s take a look at the provisions of the law – The Criminal Procedure Act 1965:
  • ·       Sec 4 (1) – the constable shall actually touch or confine the body of the person to be arrested
  • ·       Sec 4 (2) – if the person forcibly resist the endeavor, …the constable shall use sufficient force to effect the arrest but no more.
  • ·       Sec 4 (3) – no fight to kill, except if arrest was upon a charge of treason, felony or inflicting a dangerous wound, arrest of a person cannot otherwise be accomplished.
  • ·       Sec 4 (4) – a private person can be called upon and it is his duty to give aid.

Individual citizens can also make arrests, but they have to hand over custody to the police as soon as possible after the arrest. 

What happens after an arrest is a whole new picnic.  However, in light of recent events where lives were lost in trying to effect an arrest, one is tempted to ask: Are the actions of the police in accordance with the conditions of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone and the Criminal Procedures Act of 1965?  Are they applying unnecessary restraints, acting out of line with their code of ethics?

If so, they are liable for disciplinary actions and persons arrested and violated can maintain actions for unlawful arrest, police brutality and misconduct.  *signs* but this we are yet to see!

“I have a question ma.  I would like to know what evidence is”

Hawanatu, Wilbri and I had visited the Annie Walsh Memorial School to do a legal education session.  The above statement was made by a pupil during the question and answer period at the close of the session, and as luck would have it, I as at the podium.

This was a challenge for me as I had just started a law of evidence course and barely knew myself.  Notwithstanding, I looked at the young lady and replied boldly “evidence is any material you can present to the court to prove your case and disprove the case of the other party.  I went on to list a few examples I was aware of at that point.

So far, all the legal education sessions I have participated in seem to bring up a new aspect of the law wherein I need to conduct an investigation.  After this, I must confess I paid extra attention to my evidence course.  It isn’t my favorite course (it seems I have an affection for family law), yet I made special effort to get a grasp of the whole concept.  This even boosted my grades, in trying to know what evidence is, I got proof of my hard work.  I extend my gratitude to the young lady for her in-deliberate push in the back.

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