• February 21, 2023

A Glimpse: The Release of A Convict From The Port Loko Correctional Centre

A Glimpse: The Release of A Convict From The Port Loko Correctional Centre
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By Hassan Bruz Northern Bureau

Whether it was procedurally or clumsily done, the apparent refusal by the relevant authorities of the Judiciary in the Northwest Region and Port Loko Judicial District in particular to comment on what appears to be an untimely release of a serving convict from the correctional centre in Port Loko has created room for a lot of tongue-wagging with fingers of profound doubts pointing at the judicious dispensation of justice in Sierra Leone.

The bulk of those thrilled by the remarkable efforts of the Hon Chief Justice in rebranding the judicial system in this country would be dumbfounded when they shall come to know about a serving convict that is now going about his normal movements outside from the prison yard.

This strange if not ugly development is a clear indication of the pointlessness for any aggrieved person wishing to pursue redress in the courts of law. It can as well be a compelling factor for aggrieved persons to take the law into their own hands for the lack of justice in legal pursuits.

What else could one deduce in a scenario where a person is sentenced to a jail term exceeding one year in a court of law and he or she is seen perambulating across the country as a free and happy – go – getter within a week after the sentence? As often said by Dr Tam Bayoh of the then most popular Monologue Fame of Citizen Radio, such a thing can only happen in the West African state of Sierra Leone.

The issue being referred to here has to do with a male convict in the person of Alhaji Ibrahim Koroma. He was before Hon Justice Abdul Sheriff at the High Court Holden in Port Loko on a one count charge of fraudulent conversion. This matter was initiated as a private summons at the Magistrate Court in Lunsar where the preliminary investigations were presided over by Magistrate Augustine Briama Samura. It was eventually committed to the High Court in Port Loko where it was determined by Hon Justice Abdul Sheriff.

The particulars of offence were that the convict – Alhaji Ibrahim Koroma on diverse dates between 20 and 26 April 2022, fraudulently converted to his own use and benefit the sum of three hundred million old Sierra Leone leones. The money was entrusted to him by Bro Michael Musa Koroma for it to be used to complete the construction of a fuel station in Lunsar – Marampa Chiefdom, Port Loko District.

The prosecution was led by lawyer Boyzie Kamara from the law firm of Enoh and Partners by a fiat from the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. Lawyer Boyzie Kamara was assisted by the state counsel in charge of the North West Region – M. P. M. Lappia, Esq, while the now convicted felon was defended by lawyer Mohamed Kori of the Legal Aid Board of Sierra Leone.

The prosecution was able to prove the ingredients of the offence charged beyond all reasonable doubt. As noted by the Presiding Judge – Hon Justice Abdul Sheriff, the convict collected the aforementioned sum of money but failed to do the work for which the money was entrusted to him. The Learned Judge further noted that the convict also converted the money and took steps to conceal the offence by providing fake receipts.

The convict – Alhaji Ibrahim Koroma was therefore found guilty and subsequently sentenced to an 18 month jail term by Hon Justice Abdul Sheriff. He was received at the correctional centre in Port Loko on the 15 December 2022. He is believed to have been released from the correctional centre within a week and has since been about his normal movements.

The issue of the release of the convict was brought to the attention of the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) a couple of weeks ago and the agency has done all that is doable for the relevant authorities to throw light on what actually transpired.

Apart from State Counsel M. P. M. Lappia who claimed to be completely innocent on how the convict was released from the correctional centre, the High Court Registrar – Joe Aruna said it was a decision from “the above” and that anyone seeking further information should contact the Master& Registrar in Freetown. Frantic efforts to secure the versions of the Correctional Centre Manager – Arnold Caulker and his immediate boss, the Regional Manager – Mr Bull have also proved very fruitless.

At the initial stage, Arnold Caulker said he was in Freetown and he referred us to his deputy who refused to grant us audience. Recently we wrote a letter of request to enable us access the relevant pieces of information on the issue to Mr Arnold Caulker with copies to the Chief Justice, the Master& Registrar, the Solicitor General and several other dignitaries.

The media house is basically interested in knowing – when the convict was received, the duration he was supposed to be in that correctional centre, when was he released and who ordered his release. We further expressed the desire for him to guide on the normal procedure for the release of a serving convict from jail.

The desire to write to the Correctional Centre Manager was developed as a result of the snobbish pattern of treatment they accorded us and upon the arrogance of the Court Registrar – Joe Aruna – who sarcastically said that ‘the release of the Convict – Alhaji Ibrahim Koroma was a decision from “above”’ and the ruling of the High Court can be overturned by a Superior Court’.

But our suspicion for a dubious method was ignited by the remarks of State Counsel Lappia who said he had no idea on the release of the convict even though he ought to have been informed under normal circumstances. This suspicion of an unusual procedure of release became much more vivid in our experience with the Correctional Centre Manager when he picked my phone call to say – he has no idea and that we should contact the Judge – Hon Justice Abdul Sheriff – even before we could brief him on the purpose of the call.

Interestingly, the Learned Judge never saw the need to react to any of the series of correspondences we made to him on this sensitive matter. Although we have done an official letter to the Correctional Centre Manager with copies to most relevant authorities and emphasis to present a case to the Right to Access Information Commission at the expiration of the stipulated 21 days from the date our letter was tendered, yet the manager and his immediate bosses have not treated the matter with the deserved seriousness.

We know for a fact that some of the questions that are bound to rush into the minds of normal thinking persons are – whether the aforementioned authorities are actually mindful of the huge negative impact such a perceived ugly occurrence would have on the Judiciary, considering the remarkable efforts of the Chief Justice in trying to rebrand the already dampened image of this great institution.

Do they know that such a release of a serving convict has the likelihood to discredit the Judiciary and the tendency for an aggrieved person to resort to other means instead of seeking redress in the law courts?

Anyway, we intend to have a thorough look at the normal procedure for the release of a serving convict from Prisons and to as well peruse the background on the matter of fraudulent conversion in subsequent dispatches.

 

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