For this month’s anniversary blog, Lawyer Ishmael P Mammie has sat down with Saskia B Binet, AdvocAid’s Development Intern, to tell her about what it’s like to represent AdvocAid clients and how representing women with sometimes very serious charges has affected his career.
Since early 2013, Mammie has been working closely with AdvocAid as one of their Duty Counsel Lawyers in Freetown, representing clients in some of the organisation’s most critical and notorious cases. Trained at Fourah Bay College and recommended by a former AdvocAid Duty Counsel on the basis of his successes in court, Lawyer Mammie emphasises the duty of both fighting injustices in the system and defending challenging cases. Since he has started working with AdvocAid, he has represented 359 women and girls including 38 juvenile cases.
When asked about a particular highlight whilst working for AdvocAid, Lawyer Mammie finds it hard to pinpoint a time. “So far, everything I have done for AdvocAid has been interesting, and there have been several striking moments which continue to occur, for the very reason that AdvocAid cases are extremely challenging. As well as representing clear injustices, we also deal with people who can have multiple charges against them, murder being one of them.”
Often Lawyer Mammie’s cases can attract a lot of media attention, and he discusses one of the cases that garnered the most attention and affected him personally. In discussing a particular murder case, in which a woman had killed her boyfriend, Mammie states that ‘from day one there was not a moment that the issue was not reported in the newspapers and the radio. And in fact it was so bad that often on our way to court they had to barricade people to make sure we would get a passage to Court. It was a very serious matter and the murder was gruesome, which made the case extremely challenging. My life and my family was threatened, and my family even convened a meeting to persuade me to drop the matter. But I refused. I said, I have been called as a lawyer, and AdvocAid has a policy that no woman should be left behind bars undefended”. Lawyer Mammie successfully brought the charges down from murder to manslaughter, and the young woman is currently serving her sentence.
However, it is particularly in matters of injustice that Lawyer Mammie expresses his interest. “There was a case in which a lady was seriously beaten and abused whilst being arrested by some police officers, who were well known to use excessive force. The police were in fact arresting and manhandling some others, when she exclaimed to the police from another table to stop and stated that they were taking advantage of these people. As a result, she was arrested and attacked. Despite being severely beaten, with X-rays and photographs demonstrating that her hand had been broken, her arrest was still brought forward and she was charged to court. It was really a matter of injustice, but after fighting hard for her in court, we managed to get bail and soon after we won the case.”
It is these kinds of demanding cases that Lawyer Mammie has the most experience with, and according to him, they have added a huge amount to his prior experience and training. “For lawyers who want to practice, I mean really practice, and if you want a foothold in criminal practice, AdvocAid is a great place to learn. The cases are of the kind that other lawyers wouldn’t want to take on board, but when dealing with these cases you get to learn an enormous amount and get in contact with really interesting people. Because of the severity of the cases, you work alongside some of the best lawyers in the country which can be a big learning experience.”
Lawyer Mammie has gained extensive experience and knowledge of defence and jury matters, and was recently summoned to the British Council by the Chief Justice to give a talk about the jury system. He was asked to discuss whether the jury system should be maintained or removed. According to him, “It was an honour to be called among senior judges, and it was because of AdvocAid that I had that opportunity.”
Having talked to Lawyer Mammie, it is clear that his reasons for working with AdvocAid are varied. AdvocAid creates a structure in which individuals can pursue careers in directions that will enable them to impact the landscape of Sierra Leone’s justice sector, and Mammie has most definitely supported this structure. However, ultimately, AdvocAid will always strive to defend the rights of women and girls who come into conflict with the law, and continue to take on cases that may appear as challenging or difficult. And it is this that motivates all of us who work for AdvocAid.
I P Mammie is an associate in the Chambers of Fornah, Sesay, Cummings, Showers & Co. (CHEDERAH CHAMBERS) and part time Duty Counsel with AdvocAid.
As part of our 10-year anniversary celebrations, every month for 10 months, we’ll be showcasing the best of AdvocAid through guest blogs from our staff, volunteers, partners and board members.