BIALL Pro Bono Project: Providing Support to the Legal Profession and Institutions in Sierra Leone
A working group was established in 2016 to look at various strands in how BIALL can assist in Sierra Leone. More details and updates are on the Special Interest and Working Groups page.
Background to the project - an update from Jas, September 2014
In September 2013, Jas Breslin, then BIALL President, was contacted by Richard Honey who represents the Bar Council Sierra Leone Special Interest Group, with a request for BIALL to become involved with a pro bono project in west Africa. Working with other professional organisations who were already providing training and support in their specific areas of expertise, BIALL was asked to assist with advice and consultation on the management of law library facilities in several institutions in Sierra Leone.
BIALL Council agreed to follow and support the project for the coming year. Richard wrote an article for our Newsletter which was published in January 2014, outlining the situation in Sierra Leone, how the Sierra Leone Special Interest Group had already been helping legal institutions, and explored ideas for BIALL getting involved. This raised the profile of the project and highlighted, for example, the need for specific practitioners’ texts to be donated for use in Sierra Leone. Many BIALL members responded to the plea for books, and these have now been gathered and transported to Sierra Leone.
In February 2014, BIALL learnt that a government sponsored organisation, DAI, based in Freetown, was able to provide funds for two BIALL librarians to travel to Freetown to provide hands-on training and assessments of the library services at several legal institutions, to include the Sierra Leone Law School in Freetown, the High Court, and two universities, amongst others. We sent an email to the BIALL list, requesting assistance from members to get involved in this project, and more specifically looking to recruit two members to travel to Sierra Leone to assess the services, and provide some training to library staff and users of the services. We had around 17 expressions of interest, and then eight formal applications from people volunteering to travel to Africa.
BIALL went through a formal selection process to recruit two volunteers to travel out to west Africa, and finally selected Thomas Cookson and Samantha Sergeant as our BIALL representative librarians. Together they visited Sierra Leone between 24 May and 7 June 2014, and made a number of visits to organisations and delivered training.
Following their successful on-site visits, Tom and Sam wrote a report making several recommendations and providing a good insight of the situation at the organisations they visited. The report is available to read below.
BIALL Council has agreed to support to the project for a further year, to June 2015. During this time, there are potential opportunities to continue BIALL’s relationship with the Bar Council Special Interest Group. For example, future trips to Sierra Leone to follow up on training and recommendations made in the report; organising book donations; and continuing support via email.
Unfortunately travel to Sierra Leone is not possible at the current time as the area is focussed on combating the outbreak of the Ebola virus, but BIALL is able to help in other ways - for example we have recently received a request for help from the High Court of Sierra Leone to donate books on human rights and constitution building which we advertised on the BIALL members mailing list.
June 2014 Full report available here.
Jas Breslin, September 2014