Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor has expressed grave concern over what he calls the level of compromises in rape cases.
Speaking on Monday at the opening of the October term of court, the Chief Justice said, “We are informed that part of the problems hampering the speedy and effective prosecution of rape cases is that some victims and their parents or relatives are compromising rape cases and refusing to provide material evidence to establish cause.
Chief Justice Korkpor reminded parents and guardians of rape victims that rape, being a crime, is committed against the State and not against an individual, even though the individual is the victim of the physical act.
He noted, “Only the State can decide whether or not to proceed with trial in a criminal case. It is therefore utterly wrong for any victim or his/her parent or relative to compromise the case. And refusing to provide essential evidence against the accused leaves room for the wrongdoer to go with impunity.”
Justice Korkpor disclosed that the James A. A. Pierre Judicial Institute has concluded the recruitment of college graduates for what is called the Professional Magistrate Training Program. He said successful candidates will undergo intense academic training for a period of twelve months followed by an on-the-job training for a period of one month during which the trainees will be assigned to sitting Stipendiary Magistrates throughout the country to be tutored in magistrate court proceedings.
Sixty persons graduating under the program according to Justice Korkpor will serve as associate magistrates. He said the overall target is to eventually train and deploy a total of 300 associate magistrates throughout the country as part of the reform process of the Judiciary.
Speaking of the severity of rape, Chief Justice Korkpor stated, “We note with serious concern that the crime of rape continues to be a menace to our society, posing serious challenges to the dispensation of justice. Conviction records show that girls as young as two years old have been assaulted and brutally abused through this heinous and despicable act.”
The head of the high court in Liberia pointed out that while the Courts recognize and will at all times accord people accused of all crimes, including rape, the rights provided under the law, especially the right of presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and the right to be represented by counsel, no efforts will be spared in dealing with the situation.
Chief Justice Korkpor has at the same time instructed that lapses in trial processes that impede speedy, fair and impartial trial must be avoided. “This is why we have assigned two public defenders at Criminal Court “E” to expedite the trial of cases; and this is why we gracefully welcome the appointment of His Honor Joseph S. Fayiah as the second judge at Criminal Court “C.”
He disclosed that the Act establishing Criminal Court ‘E” provides for two judges to preside at that court, but since its establishment, only one Judge has been appointed. The Act according to him also establishes in each county of the Republic of Liberia, a separate and special division of the circuit court to be called Sexual Offences Division to handle sexual offence cases.
He said due to lack of infrastructural facility, only Criminal Court E” in Montserrado County is currently operating as a Sexual Offences Court. “We are working in close partnership with the GOL/UN Joint Program Initiative to prevent and respond to Sexual Gender Based Violence and Harmful Traditional Practices to construct facilities in a number of judicial circuits to pave the way for the appointment of judges to preside over sexual offence cases.
Chief Justice Korkpor, among other things, concluded that priority will be given to Bong, Lofa, Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties from whence, according to records, large numbers of sexual offence cases are reported.