General News of Thursday, 11 April 2013
Dr Dominic Akurintinga Ayine, deputy minister designate for the Justice and Attorney- General Ministry has appealed to the Police to end the practice of arresting suspects before gathering evidence.
He said the habit where the police enforced arrest before they went looking for evidence was “unacceptable” because when there was no evidence to support prosecution, the administration of justice was unduly delayed.
“I think that this is a practice that has to stop. In any constitutional democracy, there is no reason why a citizen should be arrested before the evidence supporting the charges against him will be brought to court,” he said this when he appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament in Accra to be vetted for that position.
He is among 35 deputy ministers designate nominated by President John Dramani Mahama to assists substantive ministers in the administration of policy directives for the various public institutions.
Giving his take on factors that caused delays in the adjudication of cases, Dr Ayine said the onus was on the police to investigate and gather facts and evidences to sustain trial but when they failed to do so, the Attorney-General who takes action on the case is forced to take a date and wait for the police to gather proof and this negated the speedy approach to justice.
He held that this approach by the law enforcement agency was inconsistent with the due process of law and that the impact of these undue delays gave a negative outlook about the justice delivery system of the country.
He also cited the “strategic litigation tactics” of lawyers who sometimes seek adjournments because they wanted their clients to honour their legal fees before the disposition of cases.
The nominee also mentioned the fact that lawyers on both sides sometime mismanaged their cases leading to deferring of legal actions.
He referred to the inefficient case management system in the court as one of the leading causes in the delay of trials, arguing that the processes and resources that are needed to move the case from initiation to disposition are sometimes lacking.
“You may have the procedure and timelines but you may have a situation where the registrar and the Judge do not control the movement of the case from initiation to disposition very well for it to be disposed off very quickly”, he said.
Touching on the issue of congestion of prisons, Dr Ayine said the judicial system should exercise a little more circumspection in sending people to remand to reduce overcrowding in prisons.
He said one of the reasons for the problem was the ease with which people were remanded, contending that there were a lot of people in remand who should have been sent to court, but because their documents went missing they were still held unduly in prisons.
Dr Ayine said the law was unambiguous in the category of non-bailable offences, sometimes judges refused bail in certain cases where there was no factual basis for that stance, relating the issue to judges not appraising themselves as to whether charges are supported by facts before sending people to prison.
He suggested the enactment of sentencing guidelines relating to the years a person can do in prison and the adoption of innovative ways of dealing with sentencing, particularly the option of non-custodial sentencing to reduce the number of people in the country’s prisons.
Dr Ayine held that Ghana had signed onto the UN’s protocol on non-custodial sentencing and was yet to develop the necessary procedure on sentencing, giving judges the discretion powers that lead to congestion in prisons.
“For instance, someone steals a goat and he is sent to prison for twenty years. I mean, that is totally unreasonable…..We can exercise discretion in a manner that can reduce prison population in this country”, he maintained.
Four other deputy ministers designate were also vetted by the Legislative Committee. They included Samuel Okuzdeto Ablakwa, for the education ministry; Babara Serwaa Asamoah, Lands and Natural Resources Ministry; Felix Ofosu Kwakye, Information and Media Relations and Cassiel Ato Baah Forson, Finance ministry.