The Wa office of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has secured the release of a juvenile sentenced to adult prison by the Circuit Court in Wa for stealing.
Issah Ali, 16, was charged with stealing and was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison with hard labour on the 17th January, 2018 by the Wa Circuit Court.
The Commission, therefore, filed an application at the Wa High Court after it received information sometime in March 2018 to the effect that there was a juvenile in the Wa Central Prison serving a prison term alongside the adult convicts.
Mr Siddique Ubeidu, Upper West Regional Director of the Commission upon hearing the information quickly assigned Mr Alpius O. Dery, a Senior Investigator of the Commission to investigate the issue to establish the truth.
Mr Dery then visited the Wa Central Prisons and had an interview with the convict, Issah Ali, during which it was confirmed that he was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison with hard labour by the Wa Circuit Court at the time he was 16 years old.
Issah Ali, per his National Health Insurance (NHIS) card was born on 4th January, 2001 and comparing that to his date of conviction which happened on 17th January, 2018 indicated that he was 16 years of age at the time of his conviction and was therefore classified as a juvenile under section 60 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2003 (Act 653).
Convinced by the evidence available and drawing powers from Articles 218(d) (iii) and 229 of the 1992 Constitution and section nine of the CHRAJ Act, 1993 (Act 456), the Commission then proceeded to file an appeal at the Wa High Court praying the court to set aside the conviction by the Circuit Court and then acquit and discharge the convict.
The Commission argued that since the convict was a juvenile, the case should have been heard by a Juvenile Court and in accordance with the procedure laid down by the Juvenile Justice Act 2003 (Act 653).
“Since the trial court wrongly assumed jurisdiction over the case, the conviction is therefore null and void and of no effect whatsoever”, the Commission argued.
It further argued that assuming without admitting that the trial court properly assumed jurisdiction over the case, the prison term imposed on the convict was prohibited under section 32 of the Juvenile Justice Act (Act 653) and therefore same was null and void.
The High Court presided over by His Lordship Justice Kwasi Boakye upon hearing the appeal by CHRAJ granted the release of Issah Ali and appealed to his parents and guardians to send him to school.
Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Mr. Ubeidu thanked the court for granting the application for the release of the juvenile from adult prison.
The Regional Director of CHRAJ said the Commission was in touch with the child and the family in order to assist them to liaise with the appropriate agencies to reintegrate the boy in society.
He emphasised that the Commission took the matter up free of charge and advised the public to report such cases and others to the Commission to take up and ensure justice was served.