The past few weeks have seen the wrongful communication of sensitive materials or
confidential information, creating an embarrassment to state institutions and serving as an
impediment to investigation, administration of policies and the dispensation of duties.
Wrongful communication otherwise referred to as leaks or divulging in both the Civil and
public service can taint the integrity of any organisation or institution.
Information used in policy making and administration are deemed confidential and treated
with utmost priority. The importance accorded to the confidentiality of information has
enabled states institutions to establish extensive machinery for their protection. However,
most times and quite recently in Sierra Leone, that machinery fails and information is
disclosed to the public through wrongful and unauthorised communication by government
employees creating an embarrassment for the state and/or the institution. This has led
institutions like the Sierra Leone Police to reassert control through its investigative wing and
seek appropriate redress at a competent court of jurisdiction.


Wrongful communication by a Civil or Public Servant employed by the state is the
communication of sensitive classified state information not meant for public consumption.
There are information that state institutions consider to be classified and choose not to
disclose. Even though a Civil or public Servant reserves the right to express interest or opinion
and contributing information to public discussion of issues of government, it should be noted
that the government has several interest which may be threatened by the unauthorised
communication of classified information.

Wrongful communication or divulging of information can endanger the integrity of state
institutions that regulate communication of classified information in the interest of the state
and the provision of security. Secondly, classified information are deemed sensitive as a result
of the protection of the interest of the public and state institution. If encouraged, the
divulging of information can threaten the interest of the institution in an open decision
making process. It will be difficult if not impossible for policy makers to impose confidence in
their employees or subordinate in government discussions when information is not
protected. It will not foster efficient administration and would undermine the cooperative
working relationship. It is most times argued that “judicially condoned leak would become a
means of fighting for positions of power … and would render government agencies incapable
of working cohesively to carry out their functions”. More importantly is the need to preserve
the confidence of people outside the state institutions. People dealing with state institutions
will always want to be assured that the integrity of their dealings with state institutions is

Public officers should have a clear understanding of the embarrassment it will cause both on
individual and institution when a document is divulged. They occupy a position that demands
great confidence and trust and “operate in a work environment that prizes discipline and
vilifies (wrongfully communication) as disloyalty”. Public officers regularly interface with the
public, receive confidential information that might be detrimental to the victim or witnesses
if disclosed. The public expects that their information can be entrusted to a public officer
which could be handled with utmost integrity and secrecy. It is therefore expected that public
officers should understand the sensitive nature of their postings and the requirement of the
public and the institution for every officer to maintain the confidentiality of every information
they might be privileged to have. Wrongful communication could seriously impair the trust
necessary for effective relationship between the officers of the state and public. 

Sierra Leone is not without measures in place to handle divulging or wrongful communication.
Firstly, it should be noted that the state, by the Treason and State Offences Act 1963, makes
it a criminal offence for wrongful communication of state document. Section 7 (1) of the
Treason and State Offences Act of 1963 states “If any person having in his possession or
control any secret official code word, or pass word or any sketch, plan, model, article, note,
document or information which relates to or is used in a prohibited place or anything in such
a place, or which has been made or obtained in contravention of this Act or which has been
entrusted in confidence to him by any person holding an office established by the constitution
or a public office or which he has obtained or to which he has had access owing to his position
as a person who holds or has held any such office as aforesaid or as a person who has who
holds or has held a contract made on behalf of the Government, or as a person who is or has
been employed under a person or has held any office or contract-
(a) Communicates the code word, pass word, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document
or information to any person, other than a person to whom he is authorised to
communicate it, or a person to whom it is in the interest of the state his duty to
communicate it: or
(b) Uses the information in his possession for the benefit of any external power or in any
other manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the state: or
(c) Retains the sketch, plan, model, article, note or document in his possession or control
when he has no right to retain it or when it is contrary to his duty to retain it or fails
to comply with all directions issued by lawful authority with regards to the return or
disposal thereof; or
(d) Fails to take reasonable care of, or so conducts himself as to endanger the safety of
the sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, secret official code or pass word or
Shall be guilty of an offence

(2) If any person having in his possession or control any sketch, plan, model, article, note,
document, or information which relates to munitions of war, communicates it directly or
indirectly to any external power, or in any other manner prejudicial to the safety or interest
of the state, that person shall be guilty of an offence

(3) If any person receives any secret official code word, or pass word, or sketch, plan, model,
article or note, document, or information, knowing or having reasonable ground to believe at
the time when he receives it, that the code word, or pass word, sketch, plan model, article,
note, document, or information is communicated to him in contravention of this Act, he shall
be guilty of an offence unless he proves that the communication to him of the code word,
pass word, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information was contrary to his

The penalty, if found guilty, is imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or to both fine and

This act relates to everyone and not specifically to any institution or ministries.
Notwithstanding that, various institutions have in their rules and regulations disciplinary
measures to handle divulging or wrongful communication.


The Civil Service falls under the category of the Executive arm of government and comprises
all employees of government, whether appointed on permanent or contract basis (other than
holders of political positions, members of the judiciary, Armed forces, police, teachers in
schools and tertiary institutions and staff of parastatals), that advice the ministers and
implement all decisions and policies which are formulated by Government or laws enacted by
the Legislature. The Head of the Civil Service is the Secretary to the Cabinet as established in
Sec 68 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone

The Civil Service is regulated by the Civil Service Code, Regulations and Rules 2011. The Civil
Service, borrowing from the words of the former President, ‘is the main machinery through
which the government articulates and implements its policies and programs’. It is an
important arm in the governance of a state. The Civil Servants are the Public Officials who
advise and assist Government Ministers in the running of their departments. The Civil Service
plays an important role by ensuring that state’s policies are implemented; it is politically
independent and serves the government of the day. Employees of the Civil Service are employed by the government to implement the policies of the government. Employment is
based on professional merit and institutional tenure survives transitions of political leadership
and can only be removed in event of misbehaviour, corruption or gross inefficiency.
The rationale behind the security of tenure for the Civil Servant is to ensure that the nation
is equipped with permanent experienced civil servants whose availability ensure continuity.
The Principles of the Civil Service entail elements of Selflessness, Professionalism,
Transparency and Accountability, Integrity and Impartiality.

Under the emblem of Professionalism and Integrity as established in the Civil Service Code,
Regulations and Rules, the Civil Servants are expected to always be loyal to the Government
and shall, to the best of their ability, implement Government’s policies and decisions
impartially, transparently and diligently at all times and shall not seek to frustrate or impede
the implementation of the decisions or actions of Government. They should exhibit a high
degree of competence and best practice in the discharge of their duties. The Civil Servant shall
discharge their duties within the framework of the law and shall not knowingly follow a
direction that is contrary to the law.


From regulation 11.1 of the Civil Service code, Regulations and Rules 2011, the disciplinary
actions meted out against Civil Service in breach of the dispensation of their duties are
established. According to Regulation 11.1, Civil servants shall at all times act in accordance with the laws
of Sierra Leone, the provisions of the Civil Service code, Regulations and Rules and Circulars
issued by the Director-General. In carrying out their assigned duties, civil servants shall act
with integrity, honesty, impartiality and objectivity. It should be noted that the failure to act
in accordance with the requirement set out in Regulation 11.1 shall be considered to be
official misconduct and shall result in disciplinary actions and by Regulation 11.3, misconduct
within the context of regulation 11.2 means a specific act of wrong doing or an improper
behaviour which is inimical to the image of the service and which can be investigated and

Regulation 11.4 (Y) specifically relates to Divulging or Wrongful communication of classified
document in the Civil Service. It establishes ‘unauthorized or improper disclosure or use of
classified or confidential information as part of an act of misconduct. By this, any Civil
Servant who, without authority, discloses confidential information has committed
misconduct. It is also interesting to note that as established by the Regulation and Rules, every
Civil Servant employed should familiarise themselves with their duties and obligations and
the penalties officers may incur if they do not comply with the Civil Service Code and
Regulations and Rules. By Rule 11.10, if the nature of the alleged misconduct by the officer is
deemed to be a criminal offence and it is considered necessary that in the public interest, the
officer should forthwith be prohibited from carrying his/her duties pending a disciplinary
enquiry into the alleged misconduct, the head of Ministry/ Department may make
recommendations to the Director General that the officer concerned be suspended from
The above are just what have been established in the Civil Service Code, Regulations and rules
2011. According to the Treason and State Offences Act 1963 and as established above, it is a
criminal offence to make wrongful communication of government document to the public.
Civil Servants suspected of disclosing classified document shall be investigated, prosecuted
and on conviction shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment.

The Sierra Leone Police is a State Institution established under the Police Act of 1964 and Sec
155 of Act No 6 of the 1991 Constitution with the primary responsibility to maintain law and
order and ensure safety and security in the country. The general duties and functions of the
Sierra Leone Police is established in Sec 4 of the Sierra Leone Police Act of 1964: “the detection
of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of
property and the due enforcement of all laws”. The Sierra Leone Police is headed by the
Inspector General of Police appointed by the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone member of the Sierra Leone Police force is a member of the Public Service by virtue of Sec
171(3) of Act No 6 of the 1991 Constitution. The Sierra Leone Police, just like other state
institutions, recognises the negative implications of divulging information and wrongful
communication and by the Sierra Leone Police Manual and the Police (Discipline) Regulations
2001, make it an offence against discipline for officers to divulge sensitive information
received during the course of their duty except if it is required by their duties or by legal
provisions. A police officer who breaches confidentiality in the force shall be held
accountable. A member of the force commits an offence against discipline under the 2001 regulation if he
or she commits an offence under the Disciplinary Code. Section 32-34 of the Second Schedule
of the Discipline Code provide that it is an offence against discipline if a member of the Sierra
Leone Police “32. Divulges any matter or thing which is his duty to keep”; “33 Improperly
coveys information directly or indirectly to any person of any warrant or summons which has
been issued or is about to be issued against such person”; “34. Communicates to any
unauthorize person, matters connected with the force without leave from the superior police
officer under whom he is serving” The Sierra Leone Police formulated guides and policies for Departments and Units on handling information. Guidelines of officers working at the Family Support Unit (a unit created to
handle Sexual and Gender Based Violence Cases) dictate that officers owe a duty of
confidentiality to victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Officers can be held
accountable for Divulging or Wrongful Communication, if they disclose sensitive information
about victims/witnesses to the public or friends and family members. Documents made public
about victims or family members should ensure the removal of the victim’s identity including
all personal information. No officer has any right to disclose the name and personal identity
of a victim to any other person without the prior approval of the victim. In most situation,
especially involving Sexual and Gender based violence, victim’s personal information shared
without prior consent can be a violation of professional ethics and very traumatizing for the

Investigating officers of Sierra Leone Police including but not limited to the Criminal
Investigations Department and the Transnational Organised Crime Unit also have a duty of
confidentiality to every victim and case under investigation. The conduct of investigation
should be displayed with the highest level of integrity and professionalism. No sensitive
document including warrant or summons or classified information can be divulged or
communicated without the direction of authorities and supervisors. All interviews conducted
in relation to every matter should be strictly confidential and every officer has a duty of care
to behave in a professional manner so as not to bring the relevant Department and Institution
to disrepute.


The CDIID is tasked with the mandate to investigate conduct of police officers contrary to the
principles of the Institution. It receives and handles complaints about police misconduct and
applies the Police (Discipline) Regulation 2001 (Constitutional Instrument No 2 of 2001) which
establishes the general duties of members of the force, the disciplinary process and their

On an allegation and report for any misconduct, the CDIID conducts a hearing after gathering
enough evidence. The Department can recommend dismissal of an officer or other
punishment in accordance with the Regulation (after the hearing) if a police officer is found
to breach the regulation. If in the conduct of an internal investigation, it is realised that the
offence is also criminal, the officer can be investigated by the Criminal Investigations
Department and charged to court. It is never a case of Double Jeopardy for a person to be
investigated and disciplined through an Internal Complaint Division and thereafter
investigated and charged to court for trial by the Criminal Investigations Department. “All
Agencies have undoubted authority to conduct their own investigations into suspected
(divulging or wrongful communication) and to impose a wide range of sanctions including
removal, suspension without pay, and denial of access to classified information”. A typical
matter that can require both and investigation by CDIID and CID is a case of Divulging or
Wrongful Communication.


Many people do not know that divulging government information is a criminal offence. Most
Civil and public servant do not even know that a law exists which makes Wrongful
Communication an offence. Therefore, widespread education should be of prime concern.
The increase and advancement of technology has advanced illiteracy and sycophancy in social
media. People now quickly take photos of documents and disseminate them at the slighted
possibility not knowing the legal implications. Supervisors should ensure they comply with
the rules to educate civil and public servants on their right and duties as servants of state and
how they can adequately handle confidential document. Civil and Public servant are part of
the system of administration and must be seen to dispense their duties judiciously and with
Secondly, the established legal state and institutional provisions that criminalise wrongful
communication has to be backed up with clear guidelines for the use and protection of
confidential information and due to the advancement of technology it is equally important
for these guidelines to keep pace with developments in communication and other new
technology. Policy formulation and implementation on established protocols when handling
information should be clearly drafted and popularised in all departments dealing with
investigations in the Sierra Leone Police. Formulated guides established to direct the
professional handling of document and information in the Sierra Leone Police are old and do
not cater for contemporary modern situations like the use of social media in communication.
Moreover, the Sierra Leone Police and other state institutions have despatch offices to handle
the despatch of confidential materials. Aside the fact that the despatch offices should have a
policy to guide the handling and dissemination of confidential or classified information,
assignment of civil ad public officers to occupy the despatch offices should be precipitated
by a thorough training on handling confidential information and these trainings should be an
ongoing training conducted intermittently.
In addition, monitoring of communication, enforcement and periodic review of the legal
provision can serve as a deterrent to this embarrassing act. It should not be enough for
institutional investigation and sanctions. Offenders should be criminally investigated and
prosecuted. Most times, the legal provisions of the state are under-enforced to such an extent
that people think that there are no laws sanctioning such act. A conviction can serve as a
deterrent to any negative future actions. Notwithstanding the fact that there is a legal
provision that criminalises wrongful communication, the Treason and State Offences Act 1963
should be reviewed as it is an old act and its provisions lack regulation that takes into
consideration contemporary technology issues.


Wrongful Communication is rapidly increasing in both state institutions creating an
embarrassment to both the institution and the state. Adequate measures should be
implemented and tailored towards the formulation of guidelines and policies to support
established Legislations and the Prosecution and conviction of offenders to create an
understanding to the populace that wrongful communication in state institutions is a criminal
offence and can attract both institution and state sanctions without amounting to a double

1. Development in the Law: The National Security Interest and Civil Liberties. Harvard Law Review, Vol.
85, No. 6 (Apr.1972) pp. 1130-1326. Online https://www.jstor.org/stable/1340060 Accessed 10 April
2. Government Information Leaks and the First Amendment: Alan M.Katz; California Law Review Vol 64
No 1, Jan 91976) pp. 108-145; Online http://www.jstor.org/stabe/3479769. Accessed 09/04/2021
3. Media: Prosecuting cases where Public Servants have Disclosed Confidential Information to journalist
Online http://www.cps.gov.uk Accessed 04/02/2021
4. Maintaining Confidentiality: Office for victims of crime Training and Technical Assistance Online
http://www.ovcttac.gov Accessed 22/02/2021
5. National Security and Individual Freedom 185 (1950); New York: McGraw – Hill Book Co; Harold D .
6. Personal Privacy in an Information Society; July 1977 Online https://epic.org Accessed 25/04/2021
7. The Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991
8. The Leaky Leviathan: Why Government Condemns and Condones Unlawful Disclosures of Information.
David E Pozen
Havard Law Review Vol 127 no2 December 2013 pp 512-635 (124)
9. The Police (Discipline) Regulations, 2001
10. The Sierra Leone Police Act of 1964
11. Treason and State Offences Act 1963