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Hon. Alice Sandy Esq. backs enactment of CPA 2024, elucidating on its prospects to Accelerate the Justice System & Decongest Prisons

                                                                                                                                                                     Honorable Lawyer Alice Kornya Sandy, a Member of Parliament for Eastern Region, Kenema District representing the governing Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), has opined that the proposed Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) 2024 is a progressive bill that, if enacted, will expedite the dispensing of justice and alleviate prison congestion in the country.

In an exclusive interview with this Medium, following the pre-legislative hearing on the CPA bill held on Monday, 14th April 2024, at Committee Room No. 1 Parliament Building Tower Hill, Hon. Lawyer Sandy stated that the 1965 CPA is outdated and does not completely cater to the 21st-century needs of citizens.

Hon. Lawyer Sandy disclosed that the proposed bill caters for certain aspects that the 1965 law does not, such as compensation in the case of malicious or frivolous charges, which is not provided for in the 1965 CPA. She further explained that the new bill also allows for the admissibility of electronic evidence in the court of law, thereby making it possible for one not to be physically present in court to attend a hearing.

Moreover, the proposed bill provides for witness protection, which would not compel spouses to give witness against their partners. If enacted, persons can now go to court with petty offenses through the court clerk and be able to file a matter without having a lawyer, as long as they appear before a Justice of the Peace and subscribe to an oath, after which a summon can be issued to whosoever the accused may be.

Hon. Lawyer Sandy clarified the question on the trial of judge and jury, explaining that with the 1965 CPA, it is a trial of twelve jurors for a crime like murder or manslaughter, "but with the proposed bill, it has been reduced from twelve jurors to ten, also providing for eight jurors to sit in the absence of two other jurors." She noted that "the current Act provides that in the absence of a juror, a judge can adjourn a matter because of the absence of just one juror, but the proposed bill, if enacted, will change this. This also means when a juror dies, a trial starts afresh which by implication means that the accused trial is delayed."

Hon. Lawyer Sandy highlighted that "the new bill will accelerate the general justice system, avert delays, and alleviate prison congestion." She pointed out that "under the current act, people are imprisoned for minor offenses like larceny, traffic offenses, etc., but the new bill addresses how these matters can be handled without impacting the overall justice system, speeding up and accelerating the entire justice system while simultaneously alleviating prison congestion."

When asked if she foresees any controversial element in the proposed bill, Hon. Lawyer Sandy stated that, with the expunging of the death penalty from the country's laws, "the idea of having jurors needs to be revisited generally by my colleague lawmakers because, as I explained earlier, just the absence of one juror will have a far-reaching effect on the accused person. Maybe we have to revisit this even though it is proposedly reduced to ten. We need to ensure that our responsibility to represent our people is fully done."


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