LADA Institute, a Not-For-Profit Organisation, has embarked on public education on the plea bargaining law to create awareness about its existence.
The nationwide public education is to enable the public to know about the law and avail themselves of the opportunities provided under the law.
The plea bargaining law allows an accused person to plead guilty to an offence in order to receive benefits, such as a reduction in sentence, a reduction in charges, or a withdrawal of a charge(s). When the accused person decides to plead guilty, it means that person forfeits the right to go through full trial.
In a statement, LADA Institute, said the Act which was gazetted in July 2022, makes provision for the use of plea bargaining as a tool to support the speedy and efficient disposal of criminal matters in Ghana and could play a major role in improving the country’s criminal regime as well as decongest the prisons.
LADA Institute lauded the Attorney-General, Parliament, as well as other stakeholders in Ghana’s criminal justice sector, for their efforts in the passage of the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) (Amendment) Act, 2022, Act 1079.
According to the statement, plea bargaining may save the accused person the time, stress and financial implications of full criminal trials.
The State can also initiate plea bargaining in instances of organized crimes when the Attorney-General holds the view that the accused person can assist in the investigation and prosecution of others, the statement added.
It has been widely established that Ghana’s criminal justice system faces several challenges, including overpopulated prisons, congested court dockets, and remanded accused persons who languish in jail before having their day in court.
For this reason, stakeholders believe that the introduction of the plea bargaining law represents an opportunity to address these specific challenges.
In cases where plea bargaining is utilised, it is likely that the trial process will either be shortened or avoided.
When that happens, the State saves time and other resources in pursuing such cases, subsequently leading to a reduction in caseloads. By quickly disposing of such cases, plea bargaining helps in decongesting the prisons, especially in instances where the accused person’s sentence is reduced or withdrawn.
However, to take advantage of the benefits of plea bargaining, implementers and potential users of the law need to be abreast with the operationalization of the law. It is for this reason that LADA Institute, with support from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) of the US State Department of State, has embarked on a nationwide awareness creation on the plea bargain law, through mass media engagements across the country. So far, a series of radio interviews have taken place in Tamale, Takoradi, Cape-Coast, Kumasi, Tarkwa, Sunyani, Koforidua, Ho and Accra.
LADA also held a workshop in Kumasi to sensitise all the police prosecutors in the country on the plea bargaining law.