A Report on Excessive Delay of Cases and Prolonged Pre-trial Detentions
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Africa Office has since 2008 been implementing a project dubbed the “Justice Centers Project” to promote increased access to justice and protection of the human rights of the poor and indigent within the criminal justice system in Ghana and by extension West Africa. CHRI has been working to increase availability and accessibility of legal assistance services to indigent persons accused of crime, increase awareness of fundamental human rights, especially fair trial rights and also reduce the number of pre-trial detainees and consequently avoid overcrowding in police cells and prisons. This is mainly through the training of paralegals and in some cases law students who visit designated police stations to offer legal advice to suspects and their families and educate them on their rights upon arrest. Where feasible, CHRI with the help of pro bono lawyers litigate on behalf of suspects. The team also engages with police officers and monitors police compliance of the law, with the Attorney-General’s Department, the Legal Aid Scheme, the Ghana Bar Association, individual lawyers and other stakeholders. Over the years CHRI has been successful in ensuring that Police stations that form part of its target area have been decongested by 50-70%. In certain cases paralegals do not find new cases when they visit the police stations. Over the past two years hardly would one find a suspect who is in police detention beyond the stipulated 48 hours rule without haven been remanded by the court. However, many police stations still have a high number of inmates in pre-trial detention due to claims by the police that those dockets have been sent to the Attorney-General’s Department for advice.
The objective is to produce an evidence based report on the average turn-around time for cases referred by the Police to the A-G’s Department which will be used as an advocacy tool to support demands for improved case management structures to enhance justice delivery.