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Five granted bail under historic Justice For All virtual court sitting

Sat, 12 Jun 2021 Source: starrfm.com.gh

Five remand prisons were on Friday granted bail at the historic virtual court sitting under The Justice For All Programme (JFAP).

The JFAP which is normally done in prisons through makeshift courts was virtually held Friday because of the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted the transportation of prison inmates to courts.

The maiden virtual court which was presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court heard nine (9) cases of inmates at the Akuse Prison.

Out of the figure, five were granted bail, one bail application dismissed while another was declined on ground of jurisdiction.

The remaining two of the nine cases were adjourned indefinitely due to various reasons.

Beneficial virtual prisons

For this year, seven (7) prisons have been scheduled to benefit from the exercise and they include the – Akuse local prison, Nsawam medium-security prison, Kumasi Central prison, Koforidua, Sekondi, Tarkwah, and Sunyani prisons.

The JFAP which is organised by the POS Foundation, as facilitators, started in 2007 and it is geared towards easing the overcrowding in the various prisons through setting up special in-prison court sittings to adjudicate cases of prisoners who are on remand and have not been tried.

CJ’s endorsement

The Chief Justice Anin Yeboah in a speech read on his behalf by Justice Gabriel Pwamang, a Supreme Court judge at the opening ceremony of the virtual court sitting commended the organisers of the programme.

He however acknowledged the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on justice delivery in the country.

“The beauty of life is that when we see challenges, we should confront them strategically and turn them into opportunities so that we can bring solutions for the benefit of society. The COVID-19 pandemic as we all know has hit the world severely and crippled many economies and systems. Ghana was not exempt from the impact of the pandemic and its criminal justice system also felt the effect of this scotch.”

Justice Anin Yeboah expressed his outfit’s gratefulness to court users, lawyers and other partners in the justice sector for their cooperation in keeping the administration of justice ongoing.

“This is worth mentioning because freedom and justice, especially for marginalized and vulnerable in society is critical even in a pandemic.

“As we witness the Justice For All Programme could not physically enter our prisons to sit over a year now since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, today, another intervention; Justice For all Virtual court sitting is being introduced to tackle the issue of overcrowded prisons from the angle of remand prisoners by sending what used to be the mobile court in prisons to the doorstep of prisoners through technology.”

The CJ also revealed that the programme is for the first time being funded by the government of Ghana and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa contrary to what pertained previously where the programme was solely donor-funded.

“This is an effort to ensure that persons on prolonged pre-trial detention can appear before a court with the help of technology to have their cases reviewed, such that the court can consider the grant of bail or discharge depending on the facts of each case or even determine the main case where the trial would not be long or a detainee voluntarily decides to plead guilty”, the CJ noted.

“The selection of the Justice For All Programme by the Paris Peace Forum as one of the top 10 global projects is worth mentioning as is the commendation by the United Nations Human Rights Council and also the fact that other African countries have studied the programme that we have put in place with a view to replicating it in their jurisdictions,” he added.

Justice for underprivileged

For his part, the Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame indicated that the JFAP has established itself as a veritable mechanism for realising some of the fundamental principles of fair trial underpinning the criminal justice system and indeed the jurisprudence of this country.

“I find this Justice For All Programme positive and particularly impressive and a bold initiative. It represents a positive resolve to ensure that justice is not denied the underprivileged and the many remand prisoners around the country who ordinarily would not have had their cases heard by court of law especially in a COVID-19 era.

“So today (Friday), a remand prisoner can be in the confines of where he is kept and still have his application for bail considered and granted by the court without the hustle of being moved about town to attend a hearing in a physical court. He leaves prison today to the comfort of his home after having his bail application heard and granted virtually. This is the truest expression for justice for all”, Mr Dame added.

Impact

Justice Honyenuga who is also the chairman of the remand prisoners taskforce, has been presiding over the proceedings since it was formed.

He revealed that the Justice For All Programme has led to a reduction in the prison population from 33% in 2007 to 13% currently.

According to him, a total of 4,512 inmates as at January 2020 had appeared before court under the Justice For All Programme and out of this number 839 were discharged, 1,596 granted bail, 180 convicted and 28 referred to psychiatric hospitals.

The Supreme Court judge urged investigators in Criminal cases to “be proactive in their work and not leave the vulnerable remand inmate to languish in jail for months and years under the cover of COVID-19. Justice for one in a remote village is justice for all.”

Source: starrfm.com.gh
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