Interior Minister presents non-custodial sentencing report

Mark Woyongo – Minister of Interiro

Mr Mark Owen Woyongo, Minister of the Interior said on Tuesday that there were non-custodial sentencing options in the law books but they are not fully explored by the Judges.

He said the Chief Justice, whose knowledge was drawn to the fact, had since initiated actions to convince Ghanaians that her office was committed to de-congesting the prisons.

Mr Woyongo said this when he presented two copies of the report of the two-day forum on the adoption of non-custodial sentencing policy for Ghana, held last year, to the Attorney General, Mrs Mariata Brew Appiah Opong.

He said, “I would implore you to task the drafting team to look at the report and come out with a Bill on Non-custodial sentencing regime, which would subsequently be submitted to Cabinet for approval”.

Mr Woyongo said information reaching him indicated that the Chief Justice had ordered the suspension of all civil cases especially in the Lower Courts, in April and May 2015.

This, according to him would enable the courts to concentrate on remand cases in a bid to reduce the number of remand prisoners, and that, the Justice for All Programme would be supplemented with High Court Judges sitting in the prisons to hear cases of remand prisoners.

He said the Chief Justice had also ordered the Judicial Service Staff to carry discharge warrants to the prison authorities as well.

Mr Woyongo said the Chief Justice was planning a meeting with top officials of the Ghana Police Service and the Attorney General’s Department to see how to expedite action on the Bills of Indictment and that there should be regular prison visits by the Prisons Directorate as well as Judges and Magistrates.

He appealed to the Chief Justice to impress upon the prosecutors to be mindful of the charges they preferred against accused persons and to advocate for such non-custodial punishments when the circumstances permitted.

He said the nation’s prisons were congested with persons on remand who otherwise should have been given non-custodial sentences.

“Unfortunately the congestion is posing severe challenges to the Ghana Prisons Service and for that matter the government of Ghana and this is denting the image of Ghana on the International Human Rights circles.”

Mrs Appiah-Opong commended Mr Woyongo for the leadership role he played in organising the forum, adding that, government was concerned about the situation of remand prisoners, an issue the Chief Justice had taken the challenge to redress.

She assured the Minister that stakeholders would work on it immediately.

Source: GNA

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