Criminal justice system is in a disparate state – Kofi Abotsi


Ghana’s criminal justice system is in such a very discordant state that it lends itself to inefficiencies in the delivery of justice to victims of crime.

This is the verdict of the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Mr Ernest Kofi Abotsi.

He was speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Friday on the numerous cases of unresolved murders and criminal attacks in the country.

For instance, the police in Ghana, he said, “do not have a lot of forensic capacity; this is something we cannot deny, [but] today’s investigative process is extremely scientific in character.”

Mr Abotsi stressed the various areas of crime investigations – “from blood analysis, to ballistics, to everything else – are extremely scientific, technical areas that in many jurisdictions you have different experts handling…[them], so that they are pieced together, then they tell a story, then the prosecutors can take it from there and start the prosecution process.”

This elaborate process does not exist in Ghana, he stated.

By law, all prosecutions in Ghana are done by, or on behalf of, the Attorney-General.

But the constitutional law expert says, “the connection between the police and the Attorney-General’s Department is in another state of disarray.”

There is always some confusion and complaints about who is at fault when criminal prosecutions go wrong, he said.

“Very often the police will tell you that the docket has been forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Department and very often between the Attorney-General’s Department and back to the police, a lot is lost in translation; sometimes the docket even is lost [but] people are not told as to what eventually happens to that; they are constantly just informed that the docket has been forwarded and it remains there for a very long time,” Mr Abotsi said.

He said this institutional disharmony, discordance and misalignment between various institutions account for the situation where there are so many unresolved murders and other criminal offenders not prosecuted.

He advised that police spokespersons must be more proactive and give victims of crimes useful updates to help them deal with the pain of losing their family members or their properties.

The communication must be “handled with tact and expertise with consideration given to the victim because there is a lot of emotional anguish suffered by people…; people have lost spouses, people have lost a lot and in the process they are trying to just secure some emotional remedy that somehow their relative has not died in vain and that somebody has been brought to book and they don’t even get answers.”

All they get whenever they go to the police, he insisted, is that “investigation is underway. Where the investigation is; whether it is making progress; whether it is close to an end; nobody is informed; ‘we will get back to you,’ and nobody gets back to you.”

This situation, he said, must change.

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