Pay No Bribe For Bail

AdvocAid has launched its “Pay No Bribe for Bail” campaign – a national awareness raising campaign aimed at educating people across Sierra Leone not to pay bribes to courts or police stations to secure bail.

During our nine years delivering legal aid services in Sierra Leone, we have become aware of many incidents where people are asked for a bribe when trying to access bail at the police station or at court. This national campaign aims to address this.

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 ($45) to bail her child.

Funded by the Access to Justice and Security Programme and endorsed by the Anti-Crime Commission, the campaign includes: national radio and television infomercials; posters displayed at police stations, courts and public venues; a social media campaign; and the distribution of wristbands – all conveying the message that no one should pay a bribe for bail.

To launch the campaign, we have released a briefing paper highlighting the severity of corruption not only within the bail system in Sierra Leone, but countrywide. Download your copy of the briefing paper.

For Sierra Leone, corruption within the legal system is unfortunately an endemic and widespread problem. In 2013, Sierra Leone had the highest number of respondents admitting to having paid a bribe (84%) as recorded by Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer. In 2014, it scored 31 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (0 being very corrupt and 100 very clean) and in the same year it ranked 119 out of 175 in a survey that measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide.

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.

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. They were surprised to learn that this is not the case and that these “fees” are actually bribes.

Women in Sierra Leone are often unfairly disadvantaged in such situations due to low education levels and living on the poverty line. When confronted with information that they must pay for bail, most women cannot afford it and so spend month’s needlessly behind bars, unable to work or look after their family.

The “Pay No Bribe for Bail” Civil Society Coalition members include: Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Namati, Prison Watch, Timap for Justice, Sierra Leone Bar Association and Defence for Children. They have provided input to the design of the campaign and will be actively involved in delivering the legal education messages.

Read the Press Release and if your organisation is interested in being part of the coalition, please contact us. We are keen to engage as many organisations as possible in this campaign!