The legal systems of most democracies around the globe have contributed immensely to the growth of their respective jurisdictions. This has been considered to be so, because, their operations have been conforming to the modern existence of civilization, and the laws its drafters have been taking to Parliament for enactment have proven to be befitting their social, political, and economic situations. Law reform is very important to any legal system in any country. For the law of a country cannot remain static but must keep abreast with the political, legal, economic, and social developments of society. Invariably, there will be areas where the law is unclear, complicated, or inaccessible.

On this backdrop, the Law Reform Commission was established by an Act of Parliament, namely, the Law Reform Commission Act, 1994 (Act No. 17 of 1994) as amended by the National Provisional Ruling Council Decrees (Repeal and Modification) Act, 1996. The Law Reform Commission is charged with the responsibility to keep the laws under review and to conduct research with a view to reform of the law. Law reform includes the development of law, its codification and modification (including its simplification and modernization).

There have been several outcries from legal practitioners, academics, students, and journalists, that the Law Reform Commission does not seem to be having legislative priority to effect major reforms in a branch of the laws of Sierra Leone that are due for reformation, modernization, and simplification. Such are, but not limited to: the Larceny Act, 1916, Forgery Act, 1913, Perjury Act, 1911, which we adopted from England; and are commonly called ‘Imperial Statutes’. Countries alongside Sierra Leone who adopted some of these statutes from England have moved passed some of these old legislations, as some have been declared obsolete, repealed or replaced.

Recently, the currency of Sierra Leone has been redenominated by the Bank of Sierra Leone, wherein, three zeros have been omitted from the original currency. This has caused so many reforms in various financial institutions, wherein, they will have to change the currency of operations from the Old Leone to the New Leone. Apart from financial institutions, our laws need to be reformed, in order for them to conform to the existential happenings of society. These are to be done because, there are fines for various offenses in legislations Parliament has enacted, and they are quoted in the Old Leone currency value.

Before the establishment of the Law Reform Commission in 1974, the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), in 1993, had the commencement of a Decree which was titled “Penalty (Amendment of Specified Fines) Decree”, which came into effect on the 10th May 1993. This Decree was for the amendment of specified fines, whereby it replaces the currency value for fines in legislations that were in existence in Sierra Leone. As the Old Leone is expected to run concurrently with the New Leone till September, what will be the status of our laws with respect to fines in various legislations after the date set forth for the Old Leone elapses?

Written by: Francis Turay

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