Stakeholders review ADR Act, Legal Aid Commission Act …to embrace petty offences
A roundtable conference for the development of a formal framework and rules for the courts to allow mediation for petty crimes, between the victim and the offender, was on Tuesday held in Accra.
The conference organised by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)with the support of USAID Justice Support System (JSS) Activity brought together diversified stakeholders from the criminal justice system to discuss the need to review the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Act and Legal Aid Commission Act to embrace petty offences crime, to be mediated between the offender and victim.
Setting the ball rolling, Ebo Dantse Benjamin, a lawyer with the ADR Hub, said the Courts Act,1963 (Act 459) Section 73 had already stipulated that court criminal jurisdiction might promote reconciliation, encourage and facilitate a settlement in an amicable manner of an offence,not amounting to felony and not aggravated in degree.
He said similarly, the ADR Act by Section 4(1) also stated that a court before which an action was pending might at any stage in the proceedings, be referred to mediation if it was the will of the presiding judge.
Mr Benjamin said the two provisions clearly mandated the courts to allow for the amicable resolution of minor crimes not aggravated in degree, adding that at the case management conference, the judge must consider whether the offence in question was amenable to amicable settlement with regards Section 73 of the Courts Act.
“At this point the judge or magistrate may refer the case for ADR and adjourn for the outcome amicable settlement subject to the provision of Section 169(2) of Act 30,” he said.
He opined thatthere was, therefore, the need to have a discussion to promote the acceptance of the victim-offender mediation as the preferred ADR processes for the resolution of petty criminal offences, adding that “this will help promote the use of ADR Victim-Offender mediation for the resolution of petty criminal offences.”
Mr Alex Nartey, National ADR Coordinator in the Judicial Service, said the introduction of the Act was not only meant to reduce the backlog of cases pending in the courts, but also helped to decongest the prisons.
He said in spite of many of its benefits, the mediation processes had some few drawbacks such as fewer evidentiary and procedural protections, as well as no right of appeal, while at certain times parties could deliberately not make themselves available in order to buy time.
BY LAWRENCE MARKWEI