UNDERSTANDING SOME PROCESSES OF THE COURTS
It has almost become a norm in Sierra Leone that each time people are evicted from a particular property, they would blame the Police; and most times even accused the Police to have physically evicted them from the property.
There is no denying the fact that some of these accusations levied on the Police are borne out of ignorance – people simply do not know the processes involved. Seeing the Police at the scene gives them conviction that it was the Police that forcefully evicted them from the property.
We also have others in society, who, in spite of the fact that they are familiar with the Court’s processes, they still find pleasure in castigating the Police and accuse them wrongly.
Amidst this confused state as to whether it was the Police who evicted or not; coupled with the fact that there were recent evictions and more in the offing, I saw the need as the one who is always confronted with the issues, to consult my lecture notes on “Sierra Leone Legal System” and do the needful by shedding some light on the subject matter.
This piece therefore seeks to cover the following: 1. The Sheriff’s Office and 2. Processes of the court, especially those germane to this write-up.
The Sheriff’s Office
A. The coercive powers of the Courts, in their civil jurisdiction, are exercised through this Office.
B. This Office is provided for by Section 2 of the Sheriff’s Act Cap 10 of the Laws of Sierra Leone 1960.
C. The Inspector General of Police is the Sheriff of the High Court of Sierra Leone and his Regional Commanders in the provinces are his deputies in the respective regions.
D. The judicial officer heading the Sheriff’s Office in the Courts is called the Undersheriff, assisted by Bailiff Superintendents, Senior Bailiffs and Bailiffs.
E. The principal role of these personnel is the enforcement of mainly civil judgments, orders, and rulings of the Courts. They exert the coercive mandate of the Courts, through execution processes issuing from the Master’s office, in enforcement of court orders and judgments.
F. By Order 10 Rule 1(a) of the High Court Rules 2007, they are also the official process servers of all originating processes, pleadings, orders, warrants, and all other processes, documents, or written communications of the court.
Processes of the courts
There are three types of processes often issued by a court: processes commencing actions in courts; those in aid of proceedings in court; and those authorizing execution of judgments and Orders of courts.
For the purposes of this piece, I shall limit myself to the latter which specifically deals with the civil aspects of the Courts.
Enforcement Processes in Civil Matters
A plethora of processes exist by which judgments and Orders of courts in civil proceedings can be enforced.
I intend to only pay attention to few, not all.
1. Writ of Fieri Facias (hereinafter called “a fifa”) – This deals with the enforcement of a judgment for the payment of money not being paid into court – issuance of a fifa.
It is issued by the Master and Registrar (M&A) and executed by the Undersheriff. The process authorizes bailiffs; to enter forcibly, if need be, into premises of a judgment debtor and seized his property therein, sell them, to recover the judgment debt due and owing to the judgment creditor and pay over the proceeds to the judgment debtor (Order 46 Rule 1(a) of the High Court Rules 2007.
2. Writ of Possession
A judgement for giving up of land, shall be executed by a process called a writ of possession, issuing from master’s office, with the leave of the court that gave the judgment.
This mandates the bailiffs of the Undersheriff’s office, to enter forcefully and evict the judgment debtor from and surrender vacant possession of the property in issue, to the successful litigant (Order 46 Rule 3 subrule 1(a).
3. Writ of Delivery
A judgment or Order for the delivery of goods, can by Order 46 Rule 4 subrule 1(a) of the said Rules, be executed by a writ of delivery, also issuing from the M&R and enforced by the Undersheriff.
It mandates bailiffs to forcibly seize the goods in issue and deliver them to the judgment creditor.
4. Writ of Assistance
This is an auxiliary process to the principal execution process.
It is the writ that mandates the Police to assist bailiffs, in the execution of judgments and Orders, by providing security cover.
For example, in the recovery of land, the Police will do a threat assessment and based on their findings, would advise the Undersheriff whether to proceed with the execution or not.
The Police will only partake in the execution exercise, if there is a writ of assistance from the court, mandating them to provide security.
It is worthy of note that in one application, a judgment creditor can ask for more than one execution process. For example, on a judgment for the recovery of premises that also awards the successful litigant mense profit or arrears of rent and cost, the judgment creditor can apply for writ of possession for the recovery of the premises, writ of fifa for mense profit or arrears and cost and writ of assistance for Police assistance.
When granted, the master will issue a three in one writ of execution.
This is not exhaustive, like I initially stated, but I hope it would go a long way to enlightening the public about some of the processes of the Courts, and most importantly, understanding the role of the Police when it comes to Writ of Possession.
ACP BRIMA KAMARA
HEAD OF MEDIA, PUBLIC RELATIONS, AND SPORTS (SLP). +23277361070.