The Liberian Judiciary has announced several precautionary measures to control the number of detainees and prevent Ebola outbreak.
At the opening of the Supreme Court’s October Term on Monday, Chief Justice Francis S. Kporkpor, Sr. said judges had been warned that under no circumstance should a person infected or suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus be incarcerated in a matter involving a non-bailable offense.
Speaking at the ceremony attended by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, House Speaker Alex Tyler, Senate President Pro-tempore Gbezhongar Findley and other officials, he said judges were advised that with the involvement of the Justice Ministry, arrangement should be made to refer accused persons suspected of illness to health authorities for testing or treatment.
Chief Justice Korkpor said the measures were put in place after holding several meetings with judges and magistrates, during which they were advised to exercise available discretionary powers under sections 10.12 and 13.5 of the Criminal Procedure Law which provides options to arrest and detain.
Considering restrictions put on movement here by government during this difficult period, he additionally said judges were advised to exercise caution and avoid eviction arising from ejectment and summary proceedings to recover possession of real property.
In the midst debate against President Sirleaf’s quest for extra power, the Chief Justice has not already asked citizens and residents to remain cautious, alert and obey all measures declared and enunciated by government to fight the Ebola virus.
“Similarly, we had a meeting with the leadership of the Liberian National Bar Association, where we agreed that during this period, bench trial, rather than jury trial, should be encouraged,” he said. The purpose is to avoid sequestrating jurors in one location to prevent physical contact which he says is a sure means of transmitting the virus.
He expressed delight for responses and involvement of judges and members of the bar, and particularly commended the Association of Trial Judges who purchased and distributed anti-Ebola materials to courts in and around Monrovia as well as other parts of the country.
Already, acting Justice Minister Cllr. Benedict F. Sannoh, says approximately 581 pre-trial detainees have been released nationwide through the prison de-congestion program since August 2014.
He says all correction facilities continue to trace, screen and possibly quarantine inmates, officers and others as appropriate, who are found to be symptomatic of the disease or had contact with suspected inmates.
But Liberian National Bar Association President Cllr. Theophilous C. Gould, says magisterial courts are still holding large number of persons on the bench, contrary to the Justice’s advice.