Nine people on remand at the male section of the Nsawam Prisons, were discharged yesterday, under the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice’s ‘Justice for All’ programme which seeks to decongest the country’s prisons.
In all, 11 remand cases, mainly misdemeanour, were reviewed. Out of the nine who were set free, six were made to sign a one-year bond to be of good behaviour. Two people were granted bail with sureties.
Their remand periods ranged from six months to two years.
Since the programme started in September last year, with the first sitting at the James Fort Prison (now closed down), about 40 people on remand have been discharged while some have been granted bail, according to officials of the Legal Aid Board of the Ghana Bar Association.
Currently, a third of the total prison population (about 13,000) is remand cases, with the male section of the Nsawam Prisons alone having 1,731 remand prisoners.
Nii Osah Mills, president of the Bar and Kojo Graham, Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Civil Liberties, told the Times after the sitting that though the programme, in its pilot phase, involves all cases both civil and criminal, it would be dealing with misdemeanours for now.
They stressed the need for the programme to be pursued vigorously since there were people who had found themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time.
'We at the Ghana Bar have been described (by a section of the public) as stomach lawyers so we are encouraging our lawyers to provide services to the less-privileged free of charge,' they said and stressed that the support is only for those who cannot afford legal services.
The cases, which were reviewed by the court, presided over by Mrs Georgina Mensah-Datsa, a Circuit court judge, had to do with theft including mobile phones, underground cables and a bicycle. Another case involved attempted escape from lawful custody.
The prosecutor from the Attorney-General’s Department was Mrs Stella Badu while the defence counsel were Ekow Awoonor, Chairman of the Legal Aid Board and Mrs Mills and Graham.
The next sitting is scheduled for May 16.