The Legal Resources Centre (LRC), a Non-Governmental Organization has called for support from stakeholders in the Upper East Region for the passage of the Community Service Bill of 2018 into law.
That, it said would provide for community service as an alternative to custodial sentences for convicted offenders for certain types of crimes considered as minor or misdemeanors instead of the usual custodial sentencing, which posed a financial burden to the Government and the taxpayer.
Emphasising the advantages and the need to have the Bill passed at a town hall meeting of stakeholders in Bolgatanga, the regional capital, Mr Enock Jengre, a Rule of Law Specialist at the LRC said the Bill was more reformative.
The day’s meeting, organized by the LRC, was intended to seek and create awareness, and rally support from stakeholders on the need to pass the Bill into law, which it said would provide for the use of other non-traditional approaches in convicting offenders for minor cases.
The meeting was also part of the LRC’s Justice Sector Support Activity (JSS) implemented in 40 targeted Metropolitans, Municipalities, and Districts in seven Regions with funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“In comparing community service with confinement in jail or prison, the offender is less likely to commit future crimes in the latter and it is more humane in the former as it does no collateral damage to their lives and that of the future of their loved ones,” Mr Jengre said.
According to the Rule of Law Specialist, the law would enable penal sanctions to be individualized to the needs of the offender, and make the sanctions more personalized and effective, adding that, “It does not interfere or prevent a young offender from attaining education, which is necessary as he or she serves the sentence while schooling.”
Mr Jengre further indicated that with the passage of the Bill, an adult offender was able to continue or seek employment, and maintain ties with his or her family, especially if the person was the breadwinner of the family.
“It will help offenders pay back to their communities and also help them not to disassociate entirely from their family, friends, and normal lifestyles, which is required for their emotional and psychological wellbeing,” he added.
Mr Clarke Noyoru, Counsel for the LRC, who addressed participants, used the opportunity to urge them to patronise the services of the Legal Aid Commission (LAC) as the Commission commiserates the Legal Aid week celebration.
He said there was the need for members of the public to be properly schooled on the existence, services, and benefits the Commission provided across the country, insisting that financial constraint was no excuse to be denied legal services.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency on the side-lines of the meeting, Mr Richard Adazabra, the Upper East Regional Director of the LAC, said the Commission was not a charade, “The Legal Aid Commission is carrying out its mandate as outlined in the law which set it up. That is why it is not a charade.”
He said the Commission existed to make legal aid available to persons deemed to be poor by the Commission, and explained that if a person was involved in a civil or criminal case and sought the services of the Commission, the necessary investigations were conducted to establish whether the person was indeed poor and could not engage the services of a lawyer before it offers aid.
Mr Adazabra said the Commission had brought salvation to people in several criminal and civil cases, “People who have been locked up on remand, and even imprisoned after convictions, were probably arrived at because the person didn’t have the benefit of legal services.”