Some stakeholders operating in the legal sector have advocated a review of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act 2010 (Act798) and the Legal Aid Commission Act 2018 (077) to include petty offences.
That was because congestion in the prisons could mainly be blamed on the fact that minor and petty offences which were considered misdemeanour went through trials instead of using ADR.
Ms Nahaja Adam, Programme Officer of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiatives (CHRI) during a roundtable on the Review of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, said petty criminal offences have contributed to creating a backlog of pending cases in the courts and overpopulated prisons.
The situation particularly in the prisons had already aggravated the social insecurity since these petty offenders were mixed with first degree criminals who negatively influenced these first-time offenders.
The ADR which sought out of court settlement was key in decongesting the prisons hence the increased need for the acceptance of “Victims Offender Mediation” as the preferred DAR process for the resolution of petty offences.
Meanwhile, a State Attorney, Mrs Adelaide Kobiri-Woode, has called for the amendment of certain aspects of the criminal offences Act 29 and 30 to give priority to the subject under consideration.
“I am calling for an amendment of the criminal offences act of 29 and 30 as well, because the conference here today is on amending the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, and then the Legal Aid Commission Act and my humble view is that you cannot do them in isolation, I mean those acts without amending the Criminal Offenses Act itself.”
She said since all offenses and punishment associated with that offence, has been taken care of by the criminal offences act, the needful would be, first, to amend the Criminal Offence Act.
“The whole idea is to amend the ADR act in the Legal Aid Commission Act; on the whole, we are looking at the non-custodial sentence…we are looking at the plea bargain, we are looking at a holistic approach, such that the mother law will be taken care of before we look at other laws, which would allow petty offences or minor offences to be settled by alternative dispute resolution,” Mrs Kobiri-Woode said.
Ms Mina Mensah, Director of the CHRI Africa Office called on citizens to begin an active campaign that would inform the powers that need amending the existing laws.