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General News of Friday, 5 May 2017

Source: Myjoyonline.com

Chief Justice oversees last Justice for All Programme; inmates freed

As part of efforts to decongest the prisons, three judges Friday sat at the Nsawam Prison and heard the cases of some inmates who have been on remand for years.

The Chief Justice (CJ), Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, the Danish Ambassador and the Director of Public Prosecutions were also in the prisons as the CJ witnessed her last Justice For All Programme before she leaves office next month.

In 2015, Joy FM’s Seth Kwame Boateng made a documentary, which tells the stories of shock, pain and sheer neglect of possibly innocent people spending productive hours behind bars.

In response to the documentary, the Chief Justice reactivated the Justice for All Programme which was initiated by the Attorney General and the Ghana Prisons Service (GPS) and aimed at ensuring that hearing is given every citizen, irrespective of one’s social, economic and political background.

The Justice for all programme is a special in-prison court sitting forn remand prisoners, prisoners whose trials are unreasonably delayed.

The programme constitutes a key component of the rule of law, access to justice and the sustained promotion and protection of the human rights of prisoners –both remand prisoners and convicted prisoners and of course their handlers, that is officials of the Prisons Service, and by extension the families of these persons that I have identified.

Through the initiative, hundreds of prisoners have been freed from jail and saved the government purse.

Last year, at the first stakeholders' workshop since the inception of the programme, the Chief Justice revealed that although the programme has saved many, it is fraught with difficulties that impede its success.

Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood said the Justice For All programme needs a complete overhaul to ensure its effectiveness.

“Over the years the Justice for All programmes has sought to remedy some of these acts of gross miscarriage of justice, but something more fundamental, something more far-reaching, needs to be done.

“The system is crying for a radical overhaul in terms of the procedural law in particular, and the sanctions to be applied following conviction. One such important statutory intervention would definitely help bring sanity into the criminal justice system and therefore ease the congestion in the prisons,” she said.

She referred to the issue of non-adoption of proceedings in partly-heard criminal cases and proposed the adoption of proceedings in partly heard criminal cases as is the case in civil cases “if not on a wholesale basis for all offences, certainly in relation to a large number of criminal cases which are heard in the lower courts.”

“ I have no doubt that trials de novo are clearly disadvantageous to stakeholder participation in the criminal justice delivery system,” she argued.

Reporting from today’s sitting at the Nsawam Prison, Mr Kwame Boateng said 57 inmates’ cases were heard and the CJ will later hold a press conference to tell the media how proceedings went regarding the cases heard.

Before the hearings, the CJ together with the Ambassador toured some parts of the prison including the condemned cells and the remand areas to see the congestion in there.

According to the Joy News reporter, the delegation privately discussed what could be done to improve the living conditions of inmates.