27.04.2005 Crime & Punishment

EDITORIAL: What About Fines And Suspended Sentences?

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Last week a Fast Track Court in Accra acquitted Ms. Sherry Ayittey, former MD of GIHOC Distillery and Mr. Emmanuel Agbodo formerly of DIC in a corruption case that had been running these past three years.

The same court however sentenced Mr. Casely-Hayford to three years imprisonment.

The rule of law has been followed to the letter and avenues still exist at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court for any party not satisfied, to go to. We therefore cannot comment on the merits and demerits of the case at this stage.

What we are interested in is the severity of sentence handed down to Mr Ralph Casely-Hayford. In our opinion, the three-year sentence is just too much.

Already, our prisons are overflowing with inmates living in the most appalling and unhygienic conditions.

Instead of adding to their numbers with more custodial sentences, our judges should help reduce the numbers by handing down fines, suspended sentences, asset seizure and sentences that would compel convicts to do some national service without being locked up in prison.

Honest, our nation must grow up and come up with new ways of approaching crime and punishment. Just because we have prisons, does it mean we must willy-nilly fill them?

Certain categories of crime, like armed robbery, due to the violence inherent in them, deserve very long periods of incarceration, but really we must find better ways of punishing less violent crimes.

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