The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, GodfredYeboah Dame, is urging courts across the country to impose stringent bail conditions on persons standing trial in illegal mining cases.
He said he was concerned that some accused absconded in the course of prosecution because the courts granted them lenient bail conditions.
Mr Dame said these in a statement copied the Ghanaian Times in Accra on Tuesday.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice said that accused who do not abscond after the court granted them bail return to engage illegal mining, the offence(s) for which they are being prosecuted.
Mr Dame said the office of the Attorney-General and Department of Justice was currently conducting criminal prosecutions against 727 persons who engaged in illegal mining activities across the country.
The minister enumerated other challenges impeding speedy prosecution of alleged illegal miners as lack of interpreters in cases involving foreign nationals and unwillingness of witnesses to give testimonies in courts for fear of being threatened by accused who lived in the same community as them.
Mr Dame said another drawback to the prosecution of galamsey offenders was the “strange and absurd situation” where some judges fail to apply the new mandatory punishment for convicted persons and rather sentence them to a fine only. He cited the example of a conviction of some Chinese and Ghanaian nationals for galamsey by a Circuit Court in Tarkwa in 2021 where the accused were sentenced to a fine.
The A-G said that when the matter came to his attention, he instructed the Western Region Office of the Attorney-General to appeal the circuit court decision at the high court which appeal was upheld and the accused sentenced to 15 and 20 years as required by law.
He said a similar situation occurred in the Upper East Region with persons being prosecuted by the police, having been convicted in 2022 and sentenced to only a fine.
Mr Dame said when this came to his attention, he again instructed the Upper East Regional Office of the Attorney-General to take over and file applications to quash the sentences and for the mandatory minimum of 15 years in jail to be imposed.
Mr Dame noted that the passage of Act 995 in 2019, enhanced the sentences for both buying and selling minerals without a licence and undertaking a mining operation without a licence.
In the case of a Ghanaian, it is now a term of a minimum of 15 years imprisonment and maximum of 25 years, together with a fine of minimum of 10,000 penalty units and not more than 15,000 penalty units.
In the case of a non-Ghanaian, Act 995 enhanced the punishment for the same offences to a term of a minimum of 20 years imprisonment and maximum of twenty-five years, together with a fine of a minimum one hundred thousand penalty units and not more than three hundred and fifty thousand penalty units.
The new punishment regime is in contrast to the situation under Act 703 passed in 2006, which prescribed a penalty of a minimum of 3,000 thousand penalty units or imprisonment of not more than five years for the offence of trading in minerals and mining without a licence.
BY MALIK SULLEMANA