Baba Yara Stadium is now ready for CAN 2008.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Justice for All Programme extended to Ashanti

The Justice for All Programme initiated by the Attorney General’s Department to help expedite justice on the cases of remand prisoners has been extended to the Ashanti Region. The programme was introduced in September last year and piloted at the James Fort Prisons in Accra and at the Nsawam Prisons to help speed up justice on remand cases in the wake of massive congestion in the country’s prisons and delays in handling remand cases. It was targeted at people who had spent a considerable period on remand, and for minor crimes. Mr Joe Ghartey, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, at a familiarisation tour of the Kumasi Prisons today (Tuesday), said the programme was being extended to the Kumasi Central and Female Prisons. There are presently 614 remand and trial prisoners at the Kumasi Central Prisons, and 16 at the Female Prisons. There is a major problem of overcrowding especially at the remand block where the inmates sleep in shifts. According to the prisons authorities, this had led to most of the inmates developing swollen feet and other health problems associated with overcrowding. Mr Ghartey said the Justice for All programme was aimed at speedy adjudication of cases in a bid to reduce overcrowding in the prisons. He said his outfit was only trying to ensure that the trials were expedited and those found guilty convicted hence people should not misconstrue it to mean that the AG was going about releasing prisoners. The Attorney General said the Justice for All programme was not meant to free prisoners en mass but to make it possible for the prisoners to share the little space available.
He said the pilot phase of the programme was very successful, adding that the Ghana Bar Association had been involved to try and get lawyers to do pro bono cases.

Pro bono is a situation where lawyers render legal services free of charge. He said beginning next week, the Legal Aid Department would begin interviewing the remand prisoners to be able to get counsels for them and that the Chief Justice would create a court at the prisons in a month’s time for them to be tried.

That he, said would facilitate the process of truly speedily dispensing justice. Accompanied by Mr Richard Quayson, a Deputy Commissioner at the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr Ghartey advised the remand prisoners to be of good behaviour so that when they manage to find their ways out of the prisons, they don’t end up being sent there again. At the Female Prisons, the Attorney General was touched by the story of a 17-year-old girl, Elizabeth Zong, a native of Bolgatanga whom had been convicted because prosecutors gave her age in court as 19-years. She has since spent three months of the sentence. She was sentenced to 18months in prison because a complainant, whom she transacted business with accused her of defrauding her of GH¢30. She claimed the complainant gave her goods to sell with the anticipation of reaping GH¢70 but she was able to realise only GH¢40. This she said did not go down well with the complainant who accused her of stealing the GH¢30 hence she was taken to court, convicted and sentenced accordingly. Mr Ghartey offered to pay the GH¢30 on behalf of the young girl and said the Justice for All Programme would take up the girl’s case and ensure that she was freed. Briefing the Minister of Justice, Mr Ambrosse I. Salifu, Ashanti Regional Commander of the Prisons Service said the Kumasi Central Prison alone currently has 1817 inmates in the facility, which was built to cater for only 800 inmates. He said the overcrowding at the prisons was mainly due to the delay in trying the remand prisoners. He said some of the remand prisoners have spent 11years in custody and are still waiting to be tried. The Commander said another problem facing the Prisons was the refusal of the Police to take sick remand prisoners to seek medical attention. “We are always compelled to guard those who are admitted at the hospital in uniform even though they have not been convicted”, he said. He said remand prisons with expired warrant were abound in the prisons and that monthly returns on them are sent to the Police and copied to AG’s outfit for action. He therefore appealed to the AG to liaise with the Chief Justice and the courts to speed up the trials of remand prisoners to help ease overcrowding problem currently facing the prisons.

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