The Judiciary has advised the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to seek parliamentary amendment to the law establishing the authority, to empower the courts to deal resolutely with those who contravene food and drugs regulations.
It said with regard to the current status of the law, the Judiciary was not bound to impose only custodial sentences on those found guilty, adding that the judges had the discretion to also impose fines on culprits.
The Director of the Judicial Training Institute, Mr Justice Dennis Adjei, who gave the advice, explained that: “If the FDA feels strongly that there is the need to make custodial sentencing mandatory, then Parliament should take a look at the law.
“The law gives us permission or right to impose a fine or a custodial sentence and in that case, we have a discretion, we may go right or we may go left,” he explained.
Justice Adjei was reacting to an appeal by the FDA to judges to impose tougher sanctions, particularly custodial sanctions, on those who contravened food and drugs regulations, at a workshop for justices of the high and circuit courts in Accra last Thursday.
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The workshop was for FDA officials and the judges to dialogue and for the judges to better appreciate how the FDA operated so that when cases involving the FDA were brought before them, they would appreciate the need to expedite action on them.
The workshop was attended by more than 50 judges of the high and circuit courts.
The judges were taken through topics such as “Food and drugs offences under the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851)”, “drugs regulations in Ghana”, “medical devices, cosmetics and household chemicals regulation in Ghana”.
Justice Adjei explained that even though the law allowed for custodial sentencing, it was flexible and, therefore, once there was an option, the judge could opt to impose the custodial sentence or a fine.
He added that judges did not have the power to alter the law and that they operated within the law, reminding the public that if a judge acted contrary to the law, “then it is void”.
Addressing the judges, Justice Adjei, who is also a Court of Appeal Judge, said the law establishing the FDA was passed six years ago and there was, therefore, the need for the judges to be reminded and refreshed on it.
“The important thing is that we are going to know the effect of food and drugs on human beings even though we know,” he said, adding that the workshop was going to take them through the implications and effects of contaminated food and fake drugs on human beings.
He requested the FDA to organise similar workshops for judges in the other parts of the country to help them to also be abreast of the operations of the authority.
Platform for interaction
The Board Chairman of the FDA, Dr Samuel Ohene, explained that the workshop was to create a platform for the judges and the FDA officials to interact and better understand each other in the application of the law.
He acknowledged that as a body, the FDA could not win the war against drugs and food-related offences without the active involvement of the Judiciary.
For her part, the Chief Executive Officer of the FDA, Mrs Mimi Delese Darko, explained that it was the desire of the FDA to see a speedy trial of cases involving drug offences and other related offences in the courts.
She assured the judges that the FDA would implement the recommendations made by the judges and expressed the hope that following the workshop, the judges would adjudicate on cases involving drugs and food-related offences in an expeditious manner.