Mandates

The mandate of the Law Reform Commission as set out in the Law Reform Commission Act 1994 as amended by the Repeal and modification Act 1996, is to:

  • Keep under review all laws both statutory and otherwise, from time to time in force in Sierra Leone for the purpose of their reform, development, consolidation and codification. (section 3(1) )
  • In the performance of such functions, under section 3(1) the Commission shall prepare and submit review recommendations in the form of reports to the Attorney General and Minister of justice recommendations for:

(a) Eliminating anomalies and other defects in any branch of the law;

(b) Repealing obsolete and outdated enactments;

(c) Consolidating enactments; and

(d) Generally developing, modernising and bringing the law up to date.

 WHY THE LAW REFORM COMMISSION IS IMPORTANT?

The Law Reform Commission is the statutorily mandated Agency of Government responsible for law reform in Sierra Leone. The mandate of the Commission, as stated above provides the Government an opportunity to modernize its laws; improve and maintain justice in the law, expunge obsolete and outdated provisions/laws; eliminate anomalies and other defects in the law; formulate new ideas or approaches in the law in keeping with Sierra Leone’s commitment to global standards of human right, democracy, good governance and vision 2030 for sustainable development in a planned and systematic manner.

Organization

The Commission consists of a Board of Commissioners and a Secretariat

Board of Commissioners

The Commissioners, (otherwise known as Members of the Commission) are appointed by the President for a term of three years renewable. In terms of section 2(1) of the Law Reform Commission Act 1994 as amended, the membership of the Commission consists as follows:

  • Chairman, who is a person qualified to hold the highest judicial office; 
  • A Judge of the superior Judicature nominated by the Chief Justice; 
  • A Representative of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice;
  • Two Representatives of the Sierra Leone Bar Association;
  • The Director of the Sierra Law School; and
  • A Representative of the Faculty of Law, University of Sierra Leone 

The Secretariat 

The Commission is serviced by a full-time Secretariat consisting of officials employed by the Commission. The Commission’s substantive, professional and administrative work is carried out by the Secretariat, headed by a Secretary, who shall be a legal practitioner of at least five years standing at the Bar. The Secretary has the responsibility for the day-to-day administration of the affairs of the Commission and monitors/supervises/ oversees the work of all Staff employed by the Commission. The Secretariat consists of a research component, drafting and an administrative component

  • The Administrative and Accounts component

The Administrative and Accounts component which is the main support unit of the Commission has responsibility for maintaining sound and efficient management of financial records, internal controls; facilitating internal and external audits; undertaking expenditure controls and facilitating procurement, overall records management, human resource, fleet, stores and asset management.

The Administrative and Accounts component of the Secretariat comprises of an Accountant, Accounts Assistant, an Administrative Officer, IT Officer, PA to the Secretary, PA to the Chairman, Secretaries/Typists, Store Keeper, Office Assistants and Drivers.

  • Research component 

The Research component is the professional and technical component of the Commission. It consists of a Director of Research, Legal Counsels, Principal Legal Researchers, and Legal Researcher Officials. Headed by a Director of Research the research component is responsible for the planning, development, and implementation of technical programmes relating to the functions of the Commission; conducting research and proposing areas for reforms, servicing of working Groups and Sub-Committees established by the Commission; collaborating and/or liaises with Ministries, Departments and Agencies, the Parliament, Non-governmental organisations and entities, local and international partners and other key stakeholders in the implementation of the Government of Sierra Leone’s strategic priorities.

  • Drafting component 

The drafting component consists of a Draftsperson and an Assistant Draftsperson. Their tasks include drafting Commission’s review recommendations, making recommendations for codification of laws and repeal of obsolete laws, keeping the Commission abreast with all legislation that have been tabled before parliament.

 

Background

In 1975 Parliament, made acutely aware of the need for reform, enacted the Law Reform Commission Act, 1975 (No. 12 of 1975), which established a Law Reform Commission. The Commission was confronted with several financial and logistical problems and it became defunct in 1989.  Justice Bankole Thompson, who was a member of that Commission, explains its progress as follows:

“With its Mandate clearly defined and a well constituted membership, it was hoped that the Commission would, in the first decade of its existence, have produced a well-crafted agenda of law reform priorities and begun to effect major reforms in the area of both civil and criminal laws.  Regrettably, since its inception, the Commission’s achievements were very modest, covering mainly the field of family law, notably, adoption.  Fiscal and related constraints, lack of adequate logistical support, lack of legislative support and a streak of judicial conservatism in the commission’s leadership accounted for this state of affairs.”

The Law Reform Commission of Sierra Leone was however reactivated with the enactment of the Law Reform Commission Decree No. 17 of 1994. Following the introduction of constitutional rule in 1996, Parliament adopted the Law Reform Commission Decree 1994 with amendments pursuant to the National Provisional Ruling Council Decrees (Repeal and Modification) Act 1996 (No. 3 of 1996). The mandate of the Commission is to keep under review all the Laws in force in Sierra Leone, both statutory and otherwise, for the purpose of their reform, development, consolidation and codification.

 The Commission became fully operational in 2003 with the appointment of Dr. Peter Tucker as its Chairman and six Commissioners by the then president of Sierra Leone his Excellency Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. Since its establishment the Commission has had three Chairpersons and 15 Commissioners who have represented various institutions on the Commission.

Functions

The functions of the Law Reform Commission (“the Commission”) are to keep under review all the laws in force in Sierra Leone, both statutory and otherwise, for the purpose of their reform, development, consolidation and codification.

The non-statutory laws are the common law of England and the indigenous law of Sierra Leone ordinarily referred to as “customary law”.  Customary law was the law that applied exclusively to the people of Sierra Leone before the advent of British Colonialism. It is still the proper law for the majority of Sierra Leoneans and its jurisdiction extends throughout the country except the Western Area.