The just-ended National Judicial Conference held under the auspices of the Supreme Court of Liberia discussed a number of issues affecting judges, magistrates, as well as lawyers and party litigants in Liberia.
But the main issue which attracted our attention, and is of serious interest to us, was the address delivered by the Chairman of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission or LACC, Cllr. Francis Johnson-Morris, under the theme: Anti-Corruption and the Role of the Judiciary.
In that address, Chairman Morris emphasized the urgent need for the Supreme Court of Liberia to either repeal or declares section 24.3 of the Criminal Procedure Law captioned, “Right of Appeal by the Republic “unconstitutional.
According to her, the Law was an impediment to the fight against corruption and crimes in general, noting that it was counterproductive to the dispensation of justice.
She recommended to the Supreme Court of Liberia, the need for the legal limitation on the right to appeal by the State to be quashed–an apparent reference to the embarrassment faced by the government to further pursue corruption cases following final judgments against it.
We do share the frustration of the LACC Chairman, believing that unless the Judiciary elevates cases of corruption to a level where they are treated as matters of national emergency, the fight against corruption will not be won.
We are of the fervent belief that because the state cannot appeal a judgment of acquittal, criminal defendants and their counsels do everything possible through some dubious means (to the extent of even tempering with the jury) to get judgments passed in their favor.
Many a time when verdicts are passed in favor of defendants due to the lack of sufficient evidence on the part of the State, we wonder how come, most especially when it is clear that the crimes were committed.
As recommended by the Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman, we are of the view that giving speedy consideration to the abolition of section 24.3 of the criminal Procedure Law of Liberia, wherein the State will have an opportunity to take an appeal if it loses a case, will protect the image and dignity of the Judiciary.
We do acknowledge the tremendous progress being made by the Supreme Court for Judicial reforms in Liberia, as well as efforts being exerted to dissuade those in the Judiciary from acts incompatible with ensuring the rule of law.
We also acknowledge the numerous capacity-building programs for legal practitioners and other judicial workers, yet still we continue to see these problems.
Whether it is because of existence of this provision of the Criminal Procedure Law that is being used as a stepping stone to undermine the fight against corruption, we think there’s an urgent need for the Supreme Court to give serious attention to the call by the LAAC Chairman.
While we do agree with those who attribute judgments of jurors in most corruption cases to unemployment and poverty, we also think there must be consequential measures for jurors and the various counsels in the event of any suspicion of bribery and other influences.
With all that the Supreme Court is doing to restore dignity and respect to the Judiciary, we strongly believe that it is prepared to open its ears and mind to the plea of the LACC and address itself positively to this unfavorable situation.
If we are to succeed in the fight against corruption in Liberia, we must all unite with all of our professional and intellectual might to ensure that the battle against corruption is won.
This is why we at the New Dawn, are joining the Chairman of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and other well-meaning institutions and organizations in calling on the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia to repeal or declare unconstitutional, section 24.3 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia.
We are very hopeful that when this is done, those who steal public money and believe that they and their counsels can subordinate due process by hook or crook, will never have such opportunity to do so again.