20 November 2017

Liberia: 'Liberia Needs More State Lawyers to Prosecute SGBV Cases'

The outgoing Legal Advisor of the Sexual Gender Based Violence-Crime Unit (SGBV-CU) at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has challenged the ministry to intensify the ongoing fight against persons accused of sexual offenses in spite of the gains made in that direction so far.

Samuel Nugent, who until Friday, Nov. 17, served in that capacity in Liberia for four years, said it was time for state lawyers, especially those dealing with sexual related cases, to do more to bring those accused of sexual-based violence to justice.

Making the recommendation during an honoring ceremony on his departure, Mr. Nugent said, "I am leaving Liberian with mixed feelings. I have helped with investigations and preparations of indictments to have anyone accused put on trial, but I cannot do it alone. It is you who will have to continue to work to ensure that the accused appear in court.

"I would like to thank every single person with whom I have been in contact, knowingly or unknowingly. You all have played an important role in my career," the SGBV-CU advisor said at the farewell reception.

"While in Liberia, I enjoyed a very exciting phase of life, which of course was a great opportunity for learning," Nugent said in tears, adding that it was hard to say good bye, but thanked everyone for their support and the friendly atmosphere in which he was privileged to work.

Mr. Nugent receives a certificate of appreciation from an MOJ official

Outlining Nugent's achievements at the unit, Sophia Mayson, SGBV-CU administration assistant, said prior to taking up the assignment, the department had a huge backlog of cases.

"Between the end of 2013 up to present, the department through the motivation and advice of Nugent, has been able to reduce the backlog," she said.

Mayson said that during Nugent 's tenure at the ministry, the department submitted 391 cases for indictment before the Grand Jury for Montserrado County, "out of which the department obtained 374 indictments against defendants and 17 ignoramus, which constitute 95.7 percent indictments and 4.3 percent ignoramus."

Nugent also negotiated with judges at Criminal Court E mainly responsible for hearing gender-related cases including rape, for the immediate assignment of lawyers to the defendants during their initial appearance in court, she said.

"As of 2013 31 cases were tried out of which 27 persons were convicted, three hung verdicts and one acquittal. He also provided international training for staff to build their capacity," Mayson said.

Earlier, Cllr. John Gabriel, director of the SGBV-CU, described Nugent's work as "outstanding, remarkable and valuable," adding that Nugent was a man of "integrity and hard work who kept us (on task) just to make things happen."

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