The Courts of Sierra Leone


The British Vice Admiralty Court - After abolishing the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in 1807, Britain annexed Sierra Leone. As with all British colonies, a Vice Admiralty Court was established in 1808 to hold jurisdiction over maritime activities. British abolitionists were keen to use this court to stop the slave trade. Intervention and prevention involved raiding coastal barracoons, seizing slave vessels at sea, and escorting the captains, crew, and captives into Freetown to be tried for slave dealing. Between 1808 and 1819, the Vice Admiralty Court was involved in several hundred cases and emancipated over 12,000 people, who were removed from slave ships, seized from the colony and rescued following attacks on coastal barracoons. Many of the documents to be displayed herein were digitized from the archives at Fourah Bay College as a result of the British Library's Endangered Archives Programme. This section is currently under development. Please check back on an ongoing basis for updates.


The Sierra Leone Mixed Commission - After Great Britian began signing bilateral treaties with other nations, courts of Mixed Commission were established in Freetown from 1819 onwards. There were four mixed commissions operating in Sierra Leone: the Anglo-Spanish, the Anglo-Portuguese, the Anglo-Dutch, and in 1828 an Anglo-Brazilian. This section is representative of all of these courts combined, although as the documentation becomes more organized in time, this sub-section may be divided according to the different mixed commissions. After 1819, these courts of mixed commission in Sierra Leone were responsible for adjudicating over 500 cases involving the emancipation of over 68,000 people, many of whom were registered. Due to the volume of cases in multiple courts in Sierra Leone, we are currently developing sample cases. Read more...