The Law Reform Commission has issued a press release emphasizing the necessity of enacting legislation to regulate the matter of contempt of court in Sierra Leone.
They have observed that contempt of court is currently governed solely by common law, and the absence of specific provisions concerning contempt of court leads to ambiguity and inconsistency in the administration of justice.
They stated that the “the principles of contempt of court, inter alia, cover actions that obstruct or undermine the administration of justice, bring the administration of justice into disrepute, challenge the authority of the courts, or display disrespect towards judicial proceedings and personnel.”
In the essence to shed light to the above principles that inter alia governs contempt of court the committee demands “creating comprehensive legislation on contempt of court that will provide clarity and guidance for judges, legal & media practitioners and the ordinary citizens regarding the definition and scope of contemptuous behavior, defenses, appropriate consequences and the procedure for addressing infractions.”
They said that the proposed legislation will ensure that the rights and liberties of legal practitioners, media practitioners and members of the public are protected, guaranteed and not trampled upon and it will also ensure that judges and magistrates and other officers of the courts are well protected in the discharge of their functions against wanton abuse and malicious indignities.
Moving on they stated possible avenues in the absence of contempt of court. They said, “The absence of a precise legislation on contempt of court leads to uncertainty and inconsistency when dealing with cases involving contemptuous conduct.”
This move towards the need of providing Legislation for contempt of court follows other nations that have enacted this stride. The committee sited in their release that several common law jurisdictions have recognized the importance of addressing contempt of court through legislation and some of these countries- India in 1971, England in 1981 and Kenya in 2016 – have enacted laws that address this issue enabling them to establish consistent standards and procedures.
In the end they said that they have set up a sub-committee comprising representatives of the Judiciary, the Attorney-General’s office, the Sierra Leone Bar Association, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists and civil society that will immediately set out to review the jurisprudence on contempt and ultimately draft of a bill.
They call on members of the Judiciary, legal & media practitioners and the general public are entreated to send written suggestions for inclusion in the proposed legislation to the Secretary, Law Reform Commission, Block 8, Special Court Building, Kingharman Road or by email to [email protected].