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THE SIERRA LEONE CONSTITUTION
Laws made by or under the authority of Parliament as established by the Constitution;
Any orders, rules, regulations and other statutory instruments made by any person or authority pursuant to a power conferred in that behalf by the Constitution or any other law;
The existing law; and the common law
Sierra Leone has had a number of Constitutions since Colonial rule to date. The first Constitution was that of 1863 when constitutional government was first introduced in Sierra Leone. This was followed by the 1924 and 1951 Constitutions. The 1961 Constitution was the first Constitution for an independent Sierra Leone. The subsequent Constitutions- the 1971 and 1978 Constitutions are referred to as the Republican and the One-Party Constitutions respectively. The current Constitution is Act No 6 of 1991. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and all other laws are derived from and must conform to it.
Sources of Law in Sierra Leone
The Sierra Leone legal system encompasses a combination of the Constitution, common law, statutory law and customary law. A two-tiered system of Common Law based on the British system and local customary law characterizes the legal system.
Being a former British Colony, Sierra Leone received laws from Britain. This is guaranteed under Section 74 of the Courts Act 1965 which states that subject to the provision of the Constitution, the common law and statutes of general application in England before the 1st day of January 1880 shall automatically be part of the common law of Sierra Leone.
Article 170(1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No 6 states that the laws of Sierra Leone shall comprise the following:
The 1991 Constitution can be accessed here.
In Sierra Leone, the ultimate legislator is Parliament.
Section 73 of the 1991 Constitution establishes the Legislature. It is provided therein that the legislature of Sierra Leone shall be known as Parliament and shall consist of the President, the Speaker and Members of Parliament.
The legislative process, which is a somewhat long procedure, is provided for in the 1991 Constitution.
Some subordinate bodies are entrusted with certain powers by Parliament to make rules, regulations, orders and by-laws.
There are some autonomous bodies and organizations that have powers to make their laws, guide their members and those affected by them. Examples include Trade Unions, Student Unions, Medical and Dental Associations, the Sierra Leone Bar Association
The Common Law
The Common law of Sierra Leone comprise the rules of law generally known as the common law, the rules of law generally known as the doctrines of equity, and the rules of customary law including those determined by the Superior Court of Judicature.
In the Sierra Leone legal system, the common law was introduced to work alongside customary law and Statute law. Section 74 of the Courts Act, 1965 provides specifically that Common law enforced in England up to the 1st January 1880 shall always apply in Sierra Leone.
Customary law means the rules of law which by custom are applicable to particular communities in Sierra Leone. It derives from the community’s acceptance of it as a binding obligation on them. It is largely unwritten. Customary law is taken to include Islamic law.
The Existing law
The Constitution states in Section 170(4) that the existing law shall comprise the written and unwritten laws of Sierra Leone as they existed immediately before the date of the coming into force of the Constitution and any statutory instrument issued or made before that date which is to come into force on or after that date.