Tamale, June 12, GNA – The African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) has organized a sensitisation workshop in Tamale, on the rights of accused persons, under the law with some criminal justice officials from the three Northern Regions.
The workshop was to help engage and educate the officials on the need to ensure that the rights of remand persons were protected as well as given a fair trial and equal opportunity to defend themselves during trials.
This forms part of AWLA’s efforts to improve on the Justice For All Programme (JFAP) by putting in more efforts to ensure effective and fair justice delivery for suspected and accused persons on remand.
The workshop, funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) also formed part of AWLA’s Law and Justice for Remand Prisoners’ project.
The event was on the theme: “Enhancing Justice Delivery Through Innovative Participating Approaches”.
The officials were drawn from the Northern region, Upper East region and Upper West region and represented the Legal Aid Scheme, Ghana Police Service, Ghana Prisons Service and the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).
They were educated on the JFAP, Rights of the accused under legal instruments and institutional proceedings, the Criminal Justice system, and Fundamental laws of the land, Criminal Offences Act, among others.
Madam Edna Kuma, Executive Director of AWLA said accused persons have rights under the 1992 constitution and other laws in the country and that it was not right for an accused person to be remanded in prison for long periods unless they were convicted of their offences.
She, however, said many poor people in the country, alleged to have committed any offence suffer the fate of remand and even forgotten in prison adding to the large numbers of convicts in the country’s prisons.
She said access to the judicial system in the country was a problem due to challenges such as citizens’ ignorance of the law, long and tiring legal processes at the court and the complex procedures in the criminal justice system.
Madam Kuma said the JFAP had so far done a great job in bringing justice to the doorsteps of prisoners by giving them hope and refuge but faced some challenges in implementation.
She said some of the challenges included attempts being made by some citizens including some Police officers to denigrate the Programme, low citizens’ participation in the process of the programme and difficulty in getting lawyers to provide pro-bono services for remand prisoners among others.
She advised the criminal Justice institutions to stop the habit of blaming each other of negligence and collectively come together to help ensure and enhance fairness in the justice delivery system in the country.
Madam Effiba Amihere, the Executive Secretary of AWLA advised the officials to avoid engaging in any acts of corruption since it makes their institutions weak.
She said corrupt acts such as taking money before granting bail to accused persons must be stopped and urged the officials to advise the citizenry to stop the habit of giving out money in order to influence the quick release of their relatives from police custody.
During an interaction session, some of the officials proposed the need for government to expand or build new modernized prisons across the country to meet the increasing number of convicts to reduce congestion.
They called for the need for government to pass into law the Non-Custodial Sentencing bill and advocated the need to discharge accused persons within the period of 48 hours, if there were not enough evidence to proceed with trial.