The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles has called for closer cooperation with the Sierra Leone Correctional Service to promote access to justice for children.
‘The Correctional Service officers need to share information with our Paralegals regarding children in their custody so that we can provide them legal assistance,’ she said. ‘We wouldn’t know if the information is not made available to us because we do not expect children to be kept in correctional centers meant for adults.’
Ms. Calton-Hanciles made the call following the decision of the Correctional Service authorities in Kono not to admit children into the adult correctional center. This means child suspects refused bail will now have to be transported to Bo or Freetown, the only places with a remand home in the country.Ms. Calton-Hancileswant those in other centers around the country to follow suit.
Ms. Calton-Hanciles said that unlike adults who are subjected to the ‘Means Test’, children benefit from the scheme without any precondition. ‘Those kept in remand homes have benefited from the Board without any delay because our paralegals visits the homes regularly and inform the Juvenile Lawyer who represents them in court.’
The Board has incorporated peace messages into its school outreach programmes. These messages will empower children so that they are not used by unscrupulous politicians to wreck violence. This includes things to watch out for to avoid being used. This includes free alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. Also, those who are below eighteen should not attend rallies, while those who are above eighteen should attend small rallies during the day.
Ms. Calton-Hanciles also disclosed that the Board will be providing legal assistance to children involved in election related violence and therefore want to have the Correctional Service officers on board to provide information as and when children are arrested.