The police should be trained to refer cases between victims and offenders to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practitioners, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gamey and Gamey Group, Austin A. Gamey, has recommended.
That, he explained, would open the door for victim-offender mediation at the early stages of a dispute and decongest the workload on judges and the county’s overpopulated prisons.
He was speaking at a stakeholders roundtable discussion in Accra last Wednesday on the need to review the ADR Act and the Legal Aid Commission Act to allow some petty/minor crimes to be resolved through ADR.
Organised by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) Africa, the forum brought the stakeholders within the justice sector to deliberate on the need to review both laws to include petty offences.
The stakeholders include representatives from the Legal Aid Commission, the Judicial Service, Ghana ADR hub, Ghana Association of Certified Mediators and Practitioners, Gamey and Gamey group, among other ADR practitioners.
Mr Gamey said the current ADR Act was sufficient, adding that what the country needed was a legislative instrument that would fully operationalise the Act, and where necessary, define petty offences in the Act.
He explained that the police were supposed to be impartial and must be trained to know which cases could be resolved using ADR.
Mr Gamey said the discretionary powers given to judges in section 73 of the Courts Act, 1993 (ACT 459) were also enough to empower judges to promote the use of ADR.
He further urged ADR practitioners to continue upgrading their skills to be able to help resolve the growing disputes within the country.
Mr Gamey stressed the need for children to be empowered right from their formative stages to prevent filing cases that could be resolved through ADR at the court.
“Children must be taught youth conflict resolution and peer mediation and ADR in general so that they do not come of age like you and I to be repeating the same errors,” he stated..
The Programme Manager of CHRI, Esther Ahulu, said it would be worthy to review both Acts for the courts to allow mediation of petty crimes between complainants and accused persons.
That, she said, would help the poor who could not afford court fines after being convicted of petty offences.
She explained that the criminal justice system was confronted with numerous challenges that inhibited effective and equitable justice delivery in the country.
The challenges, she said, included the lack of effective collaboration and communication among key justice institutions leading to over-population of the prisons by remand prisoners with expired warrants; detention without trial and pre-trial detainees (remand prisoners) not having their cases heard within a reasonable time.