“Pay No Bribe for Bail” is the message from AdvocAid as they launch new campaign in Sierra Leone

23 October: AdvocAid have today launched their “Pay No Bribe for Bail” campaign, aimed at educating people across Sierra Leone that they should not pay bribes to courts or police stations to secure bail.

AdvocAid have partnered with the Anti-Corruption Commission to deliver this campaign, with the Commissioner providing the key-note speech at today’s launch event. This campaign will be communicated via: Radio and Television infomercials broadcast nationwide; posters displayed at police stations, courts and public venues; a social media campaign; distribution of wristbands; and a launch and stakeholder discussion.

There is widespread belief that a sum of money must officially be paid to secure bail in Sierra Leone; inability to
pay these bribes results in prolonged pre-trial detention, overcrowding in police and prison cells, and human
rights abuses.

One case that AdvocAid heard of was from Elizabeth (name changed to protect identity), who stated: “I’ve learnt today that bail is free. My Aunty had a case at Congo Cross Police Station and had to pay Le 200,000 to bail her child.” Surprisingly, even educated law students were unaware that bail should be free. During interviews for legal externships at AdvocAid in 2011, several law students at Fourah Bay College thought that there was a standard “fee” charged by the police to access police bail.

Alongside the public campaign, AdvocAid have today released a briefing paper highlighting the severity of corruption not only within the bail system in Sierra Leone, but countrywide. The briefing paper positions corruption as an endemic and widespread problem in Sierra Leone. In 2013, it had the highest number of respondents admitting to having paid a bribe (84%) as recorded by Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer.

AdvocAid has designed the campaign following nine years delivering legal aid services in Sierra Leone to vulnerable girls and women. Over time, they have become acutely aware of too many incidents where people are asked for a bribe when trying to access bail at a police station or court.

AdvocAid’s Acting Executive Director, Sonia Osho-Williams states that: “Bail is a complex process. A large number of people who encounter the justice system are poor and illiterate and police or court officials can prey on this lack of understanding to exhort bribes for bail under the guise that there is a “fee” for bail. In our experience, even many educated people are not clear about the bail process. This vital campaign seeks to educate people across the country, and ensure that the justice system remains just, fair and in compliance with the law.”

AdvocAid’s founder and co-author of the briefing paper, Sabrina Mahtani, is quoted as saying: “AdvocAid was founded to protect the most vulnerable in Sierra Leone and ensure that human and legal rights are maintained across one of the worlds’ poorest countries. Seeking bribes from detainees is a result of endemic corruption in the justice sector, lack of reporting of corrupt practices and the need for effective enforcement mechanisms against corrupt practices. Via education and holding public officials accountable to their actions, we hope that this campaign will pave the way to ensuring everyone knows that they shouldn’t pay a bribe for bail.”

The campaign is being delivered by a coalition led by AdvocAid and funded by the Access to Justice and Security Programme. The “Pay No Bribe for Bail” Civil Society Coalition members include organisations that have provided input to the design of the campaign and will be actively involved in delivering the legal education messages. They include: Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Namati, Prison Watch, Timap for Justice, Sierra Leone Bar Association and Defence for Children.

—– ENDS —–