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03.05.2005 Crime & Punishment

Chief Justice Raps Judges

The Chief Justice, Mr. Justice George Kingsley Acquah, has challenged the practice whereby some circuit court judges remand minor traffic offenders in custody.

In an interview, the Chief Justice described the practice as a “perversion of justice” and says investigations had been instituted into claims that motor traffic offenders who pleaded not guilty were either remanded in custody or admitted to heavy bail bonds as a way of intimidating them to pay various amounts of money which often did not find their way into the coffers of the judicial service.

“The Judicial Council will take the appropriate action after investigations into the matter have been completed,” the Chief Justice says.

Justice Acquah says he had personally received complaints from some lawyers about the practice, which prevailed in certain courts, and the Judicial Council would not hesitate in applying the necessary disciplinary sanctions against anyone who was found culpable.

Minor offences committed by the motorists included jumping red light, parking at unauthorized places, picking passengers at unauthorized places, overloading, drunk driving, over speeding, failing to stop at zebra crossings, expiration of insurance and roadworthy certificates, among others.

However, motor offences, which result in the death of a person, are referred to the Attorney General's Department for advice.

According to Justice Acquah, the complainants alleged that the practice was normally rife on Fridays in particular, which in a way frightened most of the offenders who imagined the conditions of cell life, particularly at weekends.

The practice, therefore, pushed offenders to eventually plead guilty and pay a fine, instead of being remanded.

Justice Acquah pointed out that such practices were more or less breaching the fundamental human rights of such individuals whom, he says, include people who qualified to be granted self-recognizance bail.

He also says those practices contributed to congestion in most police cells and prisons in the country.

He reminded judges that they were custodians of efficient justice delivery and, therefore, pleaded with them to ensure fairness at all times.

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