Mob justice is gradually becoming a common practice in the Bono Region and the situation has resulted in the loss of lives despite the increase in police personnel in various communities across the region.
Also known as “instant justice” or “jungle justice”, the situation is also creating fear among citizens as one is not sure who could become the next victim.
In less than four months, the Bono Regional Police Command has received more than 10 cases of mob justice all resulting in the death of the victims.
The communities where these deaths have occurred include Wamanafo in the Dormaa East District, Penkwase, a suburb of Sunyani and Abesim in the Sunyani Municipality.
Other communities are Odomase in the Sunyani West Municipality, Senase and Berekum in the Berekum Municipality among others.
According to the police, this year alone, it has received more than five reported cases of mob justice at Senase near Berekum.
The victims, who were suspected to be criminals, were males between the ages of 20 and 35.
The situation in the region has gotten very precarious as no month goes by without an alleged criminal being lynched by an angry mob.
The victims have all died in the process due to the use of offensive weapons such as stones, blocks, metals, sticks, machetes among other weapons by the perpetrators.
In some cases, the suspected criminals were set ablaze with old car tyres, fuel and other inflammable materials.
Mob or instant justice is not a recent phenomenon. There have been instances in the not too distant past when the use of such cruel methods have been used to sniff the life out of people suspected to have committed one offence or another.
It is obvious some communities use mob justice as a tool to mete out instant justice to suspected criminals but the practice is illegal.
People who engage in the act are usually community members and sometimes onlookers or passers-by who use such crude methods to protect the community from criminals.
In other parts of the country, it is not only suspected criminals who sometimes face mob justice but also people suspected to be witches, wizards, adulterers and homosexuals.
The Bono Regional Police Public Relations Officer (PRO), Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Augustine Kingsley Oppong, told the Daily Graphic that the police command had launched an operation anti-lynching campaign to eradicate mob justice that had plagued the region.
He explained that the campaign was being used to sensitise the public to the dangers associated with this method used to punish suspected criminals.
ASP Oppong said the command was also investigating some of the cases in the region and would not relent in sending perpetrators to the court when the need arose.
“I don’t support mob justice, killing suspected criminals instantly does not help police investigations,” ASP Oppong stated, explaining that interrogating suspects could lead to the arrest of other criminals.
“When you kill a suspected criminal, you also kill the hope of the police to get to the bottom of such cases. You can only weaken the person to aid his arrest but don’t kill him,” he stated.
Commenting on the reasons why people opt for mob justice, ASP Oppong said delays at police stations and court processes in dealing with suspected criminals were major reasons some members of the public preferred to handle criminals in their own way instead of handing them over to the police.
He added that the public used mob justice because they thought punishment given to criminals such as short jail terms and bail were too soft and did not deter criminals from committing crimes.
“So, to serve as a deterrent to others from committing crimes in communities, they resort to mob justice to send a signal to other criminals in the community to stop such negative practices,” ASP Oppong said.
He said sometimes, suspected criminals struggled to overpower victims and when they shouted for help or such criminals were overpowered, then they were lynched instantly.
Again, some people applied mob justice because some suspects might be armed with weapons such as guns, knives or sticks which victims and onlookers might be afraid that the suspects might use to harm them.
ASP Oppong advised the public to call the police or hand over suspects to the police rather than taking the law into their own hands.
He also said the police presence at crime scenes or interventions would help stop people from lynching suspects and appealed to assembly members to quickly intervene in such situations.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, a 47-year-old taxi driver, Samuel Twumasi-Antwi, attributed corruption on the part of some police officers and some judges as the cause of the increase in mob justice.
“Criminals are not dealt with properly; we see them walking on the streets freely. I believe they have acquaintance with the police and when they are apprehended, they are left to go within a short time,” he alleged.
Mr Twumasi-Antwi said with this lack of trust in the police, community members tended to take matters into their own hands to seek justice for themselves.
A retired educationist, Mr Daniel Kofi Adjei, said the frequent mob justice in the region and the country as a whole undermined the legitimacy of the police and judicial service.
He, therefore, called on the police to increase its visibility in communities, especially areas noted to be mob justice prone in order to stop these unlawful actions.
Mr Adjei also appealed to the media to partner government institutions including the police to school the public to stop mob justice.