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Group Petitions A-G For Reforms In Criminal Justice System   
 
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21-Dec-2017  
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A civil society group, the Criminal Justice Reform Association (CJRA), yesterday petitioned the Attorney-General (A-G) on the need for reforms in the criminal justice system of the country to help protect the fundamental human rights and liberties of people.

To support the reforms, the non-partisan group made up of lawyers, journalists, students and other professionals, presented a proposal on eight areas of the criminal justice system that need reforms to a Deputy A-G, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame.

The proposals include scrapping the use of policemen as prosecutors, reforming the rules that govern the disclosure of evidence and allowing the law courts to sit during holidays and weekends to hear bail applications.

Others are the setting up a of criminal case review commission to review the legality and fairness of criminal convictions, reforming the prisons, promoting the use of DNA technology in criminal cases, as well as reforming the law courts.

Outdated system

Speaking during the presentation, the Convener of the group, Mr Martin Kpebu, described the country’s criminal justice system as outdated and one that did not fully protect the rights and liberties of people.

He said the use of policemen as prosecutors, a role supposed to be performed by lawyers, had outlived its usefulness and must be scrapped.

Police prosecutors, he said, had little legal education and did not really appreciate the importance of upholding the rights of people facing criminal prosecution.

“A typical policeman is more interested in conviction than a fair trial because it helps in the fight against crime, which is his main occupation,’’ he said.

“Ambush litigation”

On the issue of pre-trial disclosure of evidence, Mr Kpebu said the criminal justice system of the country still encouraged “ambush litigation” in most cases.

“Before a trial, the prosecution must furnish the defence team with all the witness statements and evidence that it will employ in the trial, but this is not done in most cases,’’ he said.

He dismissed arguments by certain people that the disclosure of evidence before a trial would jeopardise the trial because accused persons would structure their defence to counter those evidence.

“The disclosure of evidence before a trial will rather help defence teams on whether or not to challenge the claims of the prosecution. If the defence team realises that there is overwhelming evidence, it will not even challenge the charges,’’ he said.

Mr Kpebu called on all the relevant stakeholders in the justice delivery system to make it a priority to reform the system.

“If we are serious about democracy, then we need such reforms to ensure that rights, freedoms and personal liberties of people are fully respected,’’ he stated.

Receiving the proposals, Mr Dame lauded the association for coming up with such an initiative and promised that the A-G’s Department would factor the proposals into its own scheme of proposed reforms.

“These proposals are very important because people have a perception that the justice delivery system of the country is slow,’’ he said.
 
 
Source: Daily Graphic
 
 

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