Criminal and civil procedure explained

Dorothy M. Nebo, Justice and Peace Commission

The concepts of criminal and civil procedure are quite strange to people living in Grand Gedeh County. Even an accused is not aware of these two legal terms.To my understanding only a person who has acquired knowledge from workshops, law books, or school has a sufficient idea about criminal procedure and civil procedure.

I first began to experience these concepts in trainings conducted by the United Nations Mission in Liberia. In 2005 and 2006 at the Police Academy in Monrovia I went through the course work to be a corrections officer.

Civil matters are different from crimes. Civil procedure deals simply with a dispute involving two persons or groups of people (like a business, church or organization). If a person is found responsible (or liable) in a civil matter, he or she must pay the other party or fix the matter he or she has messed up. Even though no one has committed a crime, the law books have something to say about these matters.

Criminal procedure, on the other hand, deals with crimes. Crimes are serious matters, and the responsible (or guilty) parties are punished with time in jail or with fines.

The state considers anyone who commits a crime to have made an offense against the whole community. Therefore, the state is responsible for prosecuting crimes.

Usually, a county attorney or city solicitor does this. Equally so, the state has a duty to provide defense counsel to an accused person if he or she cannot find one for himself or herself.

On the contrary, however, this practice is not happening in many of our courts as expected. In order to avert the situation, there is a need to strengthen the judicial circuit and magisterial courts at all levels of the community in Grand Gedeh County.

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