Allow magistrates to grant bail - Director of Legal Education advocates
The Director of Legal Education, Barima Yaw Kodie Oppong, has advocated the expansion of the powers of magistrates in indictment cases to enable them to grant bail.
Alternatively, he says the High Court should be made a court of first instance in indictable cases.
He said it was intriguing that magistrates had the power to entertain the remand of accused persons in indictment cases, including murder cases, but did not have the power to entertain an application for bail as the practice was often used to violate the right of accused persons.
A trial by indictment is when an accused person is preliminarily examined by the magistrate as to his guilt or innocence, and when he is found to have a case to answer, the magistrate makes a case to the Attorney-General, who, in turn, prepares a docket on the accused, stating his crime and charges, summary of evidence to be given, by whom and the exhibits to be used at the trial at the High Court.
Under the current laws, the District Court does not have the power to grant bail to accused persons in indictable offences, but is able to remand same.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the Ghana School of Law’s Criminal Prosecution and Litigation Course in Accra last Friday, Mr Oppong, who is also the Director of the school, said the country could alternatively consider making the High Court a court of first instance without having to go to the Magistrate Court.
“If you do not have the jurisdiction to entertain an application for bail, then you should not have the jurisdiction to entertain an application for remand. Because the 48 hours has elapsed, it doesn’t matter the nature of the offence, the police have the authority to release me on bail; if they decide not to release me on bail, then they should take me to a court of competent jurisdiction.
“So if the competent court has no jurisdiction to entertain an application for bail, then that District Court should not be the court where the police take persons charged with murder; they should be taken to the High Court where I know that at first instance a bail will be entertained or the District Court should be given power to entertain an application for bail,” he argued.
He added that a court that had the jurisdiction to entertain an indictment case must be able to entertain all applications, including those for bail.
A total of 40 people graduated from the course, which was designed to develop the legal knowledge of local prosecutors, especially in the areas of criminal procedure, rules of evidence and skills of police prosecutors and allied officers.
The course is also to enhance the courtroom advocacy skills of prosecutors while updating their knowledge of relevant legislation and basic rules in interpreting laws.
Aside from investigators and prosecutors, the course is also useful to personnel from the Economic and Organised Crime Office, Narcotics Control Commission, National Security, the Social Security and National Insurance Trust, Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana Standards Authority, Food and Drugs Authority and Ghana Revenue Authority.
Mr Oppong announced that presently, the school was in talks with the Greenwich University in the United Kingdom to offer scholarships and waivers for students of the course to enhance their knowledge in criminology.
In line with that, he said, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been approved by the General Legal Council.
The Course Director at the school, Dr Georgina Ahorbor, urged the graduates to apply the knowledge acquired in the classroom to enhance the frontiers of the law in the country.