His Lordship Justice Jones Dotse, a Supreme Court Judge, has called for the need for a reform of the country’s criminal justice system to address weaknesses in the system.
“We need to revise and reform our criminal justice system such that section 294 of the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Act, 1960 should be amended to include more effective ways of punishment that will reduce the number of years’ inmates spend under custodial sentence”, he added.
He said if nothing was done to the criminal justice system, the country may be faced with the option of using its scarce resources to build more prison facilities as well as cater for the inmates of the prisons.
Justice Dotse made the call at a Symposium in Accra on the Country’s Criminal Justice System organised by the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration’s Faculty of Law and Helplaw Ghana, an NGO.
The Supreme Court Judge urged the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General to initiate processes to set up a Criminal Justice Reform Commission.
This, he explained, would be required to do a complete overhaul of both Acts 29 and 30 both 1960 in order to sanitize the criminal justice laws to bring them in line with best practices around the world.
He said the country had a cruel remand system where bail was unjustifiable denied accused persons, describing the situation as an indictment of criminal justice system and also where an accused person was put behind bars for years without trial.
Justice Dotse expressed concern about the delay in hearing and disposal of criminal cases and overcrowding of prisoners due to archaic and illogical system of punishment in the country’s criminal justice system.
He noted that improper police investigation into criminal cases had led to failed prosecution and sometimes innocent persons were unjustifiable sentenced, and called for attitudinal change by all stakeholders to address the menace.
He was of the view the punishment regime in the country’s criminal system need to be broadened and expanded to include a probation period to allow a convicted person to serve part of the sentence in the community than serving all the sentence in prison.
Justice Dotse called for publicity of criminal prosecutions in the country.
“The lack of publicity about the prosecution, conviction and sentence of persons accused of some offences such as robbery, rape, defilement, narcotics, stealing, has resulted in the failure of the deterrent nature of the sentences being imposed having any effect on the public”.
Professor Ken Attafuah, a Criminologist said there was the need to introduce non-custodial sentences through community service programmes to reform petty crime offenders.
He said the reforms would serve the dual purpose of providing the appropriate punishment for an offence, while getting some public good out of the service that would be required of the convict.
Mr Eric Alifo, Founder of HelpLaw Ghana said the symposium was to bring to the fall certain ills and weaknesses in the justice system as well as practices that were inimical to the delivering of justice in the country.
He expressed concern about congestion in the prisons and commended government for the introduction of the “Justice for all” programme which sought to free remand prisoners for years without trial, saying more need to be done to reduce congestion.
He said the country’s legal aid system was not effective and called for all stakeholders especially government to resource the department to perform its duty in an effective and efficient manner.