Chief Justice: Too Many Liberians In Prison – Who Are Not Supposed To Be
Monrovia – In the wake of alarming reports of several pre-trial detainees held at the Monrovia Central Prison and other prison facilities across Liberia, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor has warned magistrates to avoid illegal detentions.
“It appears that you are no longer exercising the Criminal Procedure Law 13.5 and you are still sending people to jail, The Liberian people are crying from this; and you have to stop that, don’t keep people in jail who are not to be there” – Chief Justice Francis Korkpor
The Chief Justice made the call Saturday, just days after he made an impromptu visit at the Monrovia Central Prison to acquaint himself with activities there.
The Chief Justice told a group of Magistrates from various magistrate courts across Montserrado County at a meeting Saturday that the Judiciary instituted the Magistrate Sitting Program at the Monrovia Central Prison in a bid to fast track cases that involve pre-trial detainees.
Nevertheless, the judiciary head said, the number of pre-trial detainees continues to swell not only at the Monrovia Central Prison; but other prison facilities in the country as well.
Said the Chief Justice: “It appears that you are no longer exercising the Criminal Procedure Law 13.5 and you are still sending people to jail, The Liberian people are crying from this; and you have to stop that, don’t keep people in jail who are not to be there” said Chief Justice Korkpor.
The Criminal Procedure Law Chapter 13.5 requires for a magistrate or judge to use his/her discretion to allow for a lawyer or prominent individual in the community to sign for a defendant when the need arises.
The Chief Justice told the magistrates that they are the ones who are operating the first court of instance. Yet, when people hear about the magistrate court, they feel very afraid. Therefore, they have to apply the law where it is applicable.
“You don’t have to put someone in jail who do not belong there probably you do not know the implication that person will either get sick in there or if that person is employed; the employer could him/her dismissed.
Chief Justice Korkpor continued: “There is a need for the magistrates to come out with a judgment that will determine who is to be in jail”. He added that those whose presence impose real threat to the community are the ones who are to be in jail when they are brought under the jurisdiction of the court.
In case of any problems in the adjudication of cases, the Chief Justice said, the magistrates can then be called upon to bring forward problems confronting the operation of their respective courts for redress. He then warned that if those problems are not brought forth for solution, the judge presiding will be held accountable.
The Chief Justice indicated that rotating magistrates, is part of his responsibilities. He said he intends to organize workshop in the coming weeks that will bring magistrates and judges together for a common dialogue.
Magistrates from West Point, New Kru Town and Brewerville told the Chief Justice that the reasons some have resolved to detain defendants, is due to repeated appearance before them over and over for the same crimes whenever they are set free .
However, Chief Justice called on the magistrates not to see detention as the only option, but must also explore speedy trials.
Kennedy L Yangian [email protected]