The Deputy Minister-designate for the Ministry of Justice & Attorney-General (A-G), Dr. Dominic Akuritinga Ayine has cautioned the Police to immediately put a stop to the practice where they effect arrest before investigating a case.
This, he noted, is one of the major factors inhibiting the smooth delivery of justice in the country’s various courts.
‘There are a lot of reasons why sometimes there are delays. The Police are the ones who are supposed to investigate and gather the facts and evidences to support prosecution. Whether they are going to do the prosecution themselves or they are going to bring the docket to the A-G department for action to be taken.
‘But sometimes, what we realize is that they arrest before they go and look for the evidence. When that happens, there are delays, because when they come to court, the Attorney-General will not openly admit that it is because of the fact that they don’t have the evidence supporting the charge.
‘So, the A-G will now be forced to take date and wait for the Police to be able to gather evidence. I think that this is a practice that has to stop,’ noted Dr. Ayine.
The International Trade Lawyer made this observation when he appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament to answer to questions relating to his nomination as deputy AG designate.
His comments were in reaction to a question posed by the Hon. Ebo Barton-Odro-led Committee on what is accounting for the delay in the administration of justice at the various courts of the land.
According to Dr. Ayine, once a case is lodged at the Police Station, it was incumbent on the men and women in black uniform to gather evidence supporting the charges that would be preferred against the culprit before effecting arrest.
Once that is done, he expressed the belief that the A-G or the Police Officer would be in a better position to fast-track the prosecution of the said culprit involved in the case.
Continuing, he attributed a number of factors to buttress his argument on the delay of delivery of justice at the courts. In the case of civil cases, the nominee said the delays are occasioned most of the time by the strategic litigation tactics of lawyers.
‘Sometimes, adjournments are taken because – for instance, the client has failed to pay legal fees and you feel that if you take the next step, you might be bringing the case closer to disposition.
‘So, these adjournments take place because of the fact that lawyers on both sides do not manage their case very well,’ he averred to the laughter of the gathering.
That notwithstanding, he said case management at the courts ‘themselves are not very efficient.’ This, he attributed to the lack of processes and resources needed to move the case from initiation, all the way to disposition of the case.
Touching on the problems inhibiting decongestion of the prisons in the country, Dr. Ayine said the problem had to do with how people are easily remanded by the courts. He recounted how the James Fort Prison was overcrowded with remanded inmates when it was in operation as a result of missing dockets to prosecute them.
‘So, if we can be a little more circumspect about sending people to remand, we will be able to reduce the congestion in the prisons,’ he proposed. He also attributed one of the factors to the refusal of bails when in certain cases there was no factual basis to do so.
He said, ‘For instance, if you are charged with certain offences; armed robbery, rape, defilement of female infant, the use or exportation of narcotic drugs, these are all non-bailable offenses under Section 96 (7) of Act 30, that is the criminal procedure code and because of that, Judges don’t even make an enquiry as to whether the charge is supported by the facts before they send people to prison on remand.
When this happens, we find that the prison population increases a lot.’ In dealing with the problem, Dr. Ayine proposed the enactment of sentencing guidelines relating to the number of years a person could be imprisoned while also adopting more innovative ways of dealing with sentencing.
‘For instance, non-custodial can be an option. In fact, as a country, we have signed onto the United Nations Standard Minimum rules on Non-Custodial Sentencing and yet we haven’t develop the necessary guidelines relating to sentencing so most of the time, discretion that is exercised by Judges can lead to prison congestion.
‘For instance, someone steals a goat and he is sent to prison for twenty years. I mean, that is totally unreasonable,’ he said. He noted that discretion could be exercised in a manner that could reduce prison population in the country.