PASSAGE OF PLEA BARGAINING LAW
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Friday, assented to a bill to amend the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Act, 1960 (Act 30), to formally introduce plea bargaining into the administration of criminal justice in the country in respect of all offences except a few set out in the law.
By virtue of this, the bill has become law – the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) (Amendment) Act, 2022 (Act 1079).
Plea bargaining is a process in criminal justice where an accused person relinquishes the right to go to full trial in exchange for some other benefit.
The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame played an instrumental role in the passage of this bill into law.
Consequently, the office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice would conduct training programmes for judges, prosecutors in the Office of the Attorney-General to ensure efficient application of the law, said a statement signed by the Attorney-General following the passage of plea bargaining law.
“I respectfully inform the general public that in order to ensure a sound and efficient application of the new law, a series of training programmes will be organised for judges, prosecutors in the Office of the Attorney-General, the Ghana Police Service, the Ghana Prisons Service and other stakeholders in the legal profession before the law is fully implemented.”
The benefits of plea bargaining to the State include a reduction in the caseload of the courts and of prosecutors, decongestion of the prisons due to reduced sentencing aiding in the reform of accused persons and the satisfaction of victims of offences through compensation and restitution, in addition to the punishment of the accused. Other benefits include saving the State resources through the reduction of protracted trials.
For an accused, benefits may include a reduction of the offence charged to a lesser offence, a reduction in punishment for an offence charged or a withdrawal of some of the charges against the accused person.
Act 1079 creates exceptions to plea negotiations for offences in the nature of high treason, high crime, rape, defilement, genocide, robbery, kidnapping, murder, attempted murder, abduction, piracy, hijacking and an offence related to public elections.
The decision to exclude the application of plea bargaining in respect of certain classes of offences was backed by strong public policy considerations. The interest of the State and the need to protect the vulnerable in society were paramount.
The enactment of the “plea bargaining law” represents one of the innovations by the Office of the Attorney-General to reform the criminal justice system in Ghana.
The Attorney-General remains committed to ensuring the passage by Parliament of the Community Sentencing Bill and a general overhaul of the Criminal (Procedure) Act, 1960 (Act 30) to eliminate undue delays in the prosecution of criminal cases.
BY MALIK SULLEMANA