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Parliament to amend Criminal and Other Offences Act to include plea bargaining

Godfred Dame   New AG Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame

Thu, 10 Mar 2022 Source: gbcghanaonline.com

The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Godfred Dame is currently before Parliament seeking an amendment to Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) (Amendment) Bill, 2021 for plea bargaining, except treason related offences.

On the 9th day of March 2022 the Attorney-General moved the motion for second reading of the Bill.

The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Act, 1960 (Act 30) to provide for plea bargaining in the administration of criminal justice.

The overarching objective is to reform the criminal justice system of Ghana to meet the needs of emerging society and to bring it in tandem with international best practices of criminal jurisprudence.

The policy objective of the Bill as contained in the report of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the concept of Plea Bargaining was conceived as one of the innovative ways of addressing the current challenges in the justice delivery system in Ghana, particularly, the delay in adjudication of cases.

“It is often said that justice delayed is justice denied”, report said.

Consequently, expanding the scope of application of Plea Bargaining to cover almost all offences except those with Constitutional barriers such as Treason and High Treason, and other few offences including Murder, Piracy and Hijacking is expected to go a long way in speeding up trial of cases, providing cheap but effective means of adjudication, reduction in backlog of cases in Courts, facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders, and decongestion in our prisons.

Highlights of the Bill as contained in the amendment proposed are:

Clause 162A deals with issues such as the benefits to be derived from Plea Bargaining, the stage of the trial at Which Plea Bargaining could be initiated, and possible forms of recommendations that may be made to the Court for consideration.

Clause 162B emphasises person mandated to give approval for Plea Bargaining.

Clause 162C deals with persons mandated to initiate Plea Bargaining, the rights of the accused, notification of the Court of the commencement of Plea Bargaining and the Court as neutral Arbiter in the entire Plea Bargaining process.

Clause 162D makes provision for disclosure of relevant information to the accused person prior to the initiation of the Plea Bargaining.

Clause 162E makes provision for compulsory notification of the victim or complainant of the offence or the representative of the victim before conclusion of the Plea Agreement. It also provides an opportunity for the victim or the representative to file any statement of objection for the consideration of the Court.

Clause 162F provides for the forms of the Plea Agreement-that is the content of the Plea Agreement.

Clause 162G makes provisions for the duration within which the Prosecutor should file a Plea Agreement at the Court. It further discusses the basic considerations by the Court before commencing to consider the Plea Agreement and the opportunity to hear from the victim on the Plea Agreement.

Clause 162H provides the basis for the acceptance of the Plea Agreement by the Court.

Clause 1621 makes provision to guide the Court in the consideration and enforcement of the terms of the Plea Agreement.

Clause 162J makes provisions for instances where the Court rejects the Plea Agreement on reasons stipulated in the Bill and other reasons not provided in the Bill but are within the existing

laws.

Clause 162K provides for who is entitled to withdraw from the Plea Agreement and at what stage of the trial period.

Clause 162L Make provisions for setting aside and finality of the Plea Agreement.

Clause 162M provides for what happens when the Plea Agreement is rejected by the Court or when any of the parties withdraws from it.

Clause 162M, 1620, 162P makes provisions for the protection of the Plea Agreement process, regulation of the Plea Bargaining by the Rules of Court Committee and issuance of guidelines by the Attorney-General.

Clause 162Q provides for offences which are exempted from Plea Bargaining.

The Committee in its report finds the Bill as a crucial legislative measure towards the reformation agenda of Ghana’s justice delivery system, and when passed into law, “has the potential to contribute immensely to the efforts of decongesting Ghana’s prisons, reduce caseloads on the courts and prosecutors, and save the State time and other resources by avoiding long and protracted trials”.

The Committee accordingly recommends to the House to adopt its report and pass the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) (Amendment) Bill, 2021 into law in accordance with Article 106 of the 1992 Constitution, subject to the amendments proposed by the Committee attached as Appendix A.

Source: gbcghanaonline.com