Thursday, 3 May 2012

COMMUNIQUE SUMMIT ON THE MANAGEMENT OF PRE-TRIAL DETENTION IN IMO STATE NIGERIA

Introduction

Against the background of the problems in the Management of Pre-Trial detention by actors in the criminal justice system which has resulted in the increasing number of awaiting trial population in Imo State Nigeria. The present conditions of Police and Prison cells have exacted a devastating cost on human rights of the suspects or inmates. CLEEN Foundation with the Support of Open Society Justice Initiative held a summit in Sam Mbakwe’s Hall of Imo Concorde Hotel Owerri on April 27th 2012 under the theme, MANAGEMENT OF PRE-TRIAL DETENTION IN IMO STATE NIGERIA'.

Participants were drawn from the Nigeria Prison Service, Imo State Ministry of Justice, office of the Directorate of Public Prosecution DPP, Imo State command of the Nigeria Police, The Judiciary, Legal Aids, Politicians, Legal Practitioners, Media, National Human Rights Commission, Civil Society Organizations, academia, serving and retired senior police officers. In all, 50 participants took part in the Forum

Below are some of the challenges identified by actors in the criminal justice institutions as to what is causing the increasing number of awaiting population in Imo State cells:

Challenges in the management of pretrial detention; DPP perspective:
·        Poor quality of police investigation report

·        Inadequate information in Police case files to prosecute the suspect when the crime is a capital offence.

·        Incessant transfer of Police IPO’s without proper information to the DPP
·        DPP not properly carried along in most of the activities carried out in the magistrates courts
·        Lack of stationeries and modern facilities like; (computers, photocopier, printers etc) in office the DPP.

·        Lack of adequate manpower in the DPP, as most of the State Counsels who are assigned to draft legal advice still go to courts.

·        Poor electricity supply in the ministry of Justice,

·        Inadequate funding and lack of incentives to motivate and reward excellent performance.
Challenges, Police perspective:
·     Several Judiciary strike actions increase number of court adjournments.
·     Threats of civil actions by the detainee’s lawyers
·     Lack of modern equipment and facilities like cameras, GPS vehicles that would enhance the effectiveness and quality police  investigation report
·     Lack of stationeries and modern facilities like; (computers, photocopier, printers etc)  each ease and facilitate police work
·     Intimidation from the  political office holders, politicians and financial affluent people  in exercising their duties


Challenges Prison’s perspective:
·        Decaying, dilapidation and over stretched infrastructures with inadequate staff and materials
·        Lack of adequate vehicles to convey inmates to courts
·        Power failure/ inadequate power supply
·        Problem of too many underage inmates in Prisons
·        Some magistrates not seeing the suspect to know their health condition before issuing remand order.
·        Hash bail conditions by both Judges and magistrate courts. Inmates stay longer due to unaffordable bail conditions and prolonged court adjournments.


Challenges, Judiciary perspective:
·        Lack of proper address of the complainant in the case file
·        Disobedient to court order by the police, Police detain even when courts have ordered the suspect to be released.
·        Lawyers influencing the suspect to plead not guilty even when the suspect is feeling remorse about the crime he/she committed.
·        Non availability of IPO’s and Witnesses in the court.
·        Prisons no providing inmate in courts
Challenges, CSOs’ perspective:
·        High level of Police involvement in civil matters.
·        Lack of ICT facilities and the knowledge to use them by the police officials.
·        Poor adaptation of alternative dispute resolution in non criminal  cases
·        Inequality in the country at large.
·        Lack of partnership and interconnectedness in the Management of the criminal justice sector
·        Shying away from responsibilities and apportioning blames
·        Refusal to learn new ideas and be proactive.
·        Poor communication within the criminal justice system.

Recommendations
The following recommendations were made by the participants for implementation by government and other role players.

·        The Police were asked to be more professional in handling of cases and arrest should be carried out only when it is necessary. The police were also encouraged to embrace adoption of alternative dispute resolution in very minor criminal case and learn not to entertain civil cases.
·        Judges and magistrates were advised to be sensitive in placing bail conditions on inmate as most inmates spend years trying to meet the bail conditions. They were also advised to review the process of remand by making alternative ways of penalizing offenders instead of taking them to prisons.

·        The quality and effectiveness in the police investigation reports has to be improved and the Magistrates should be empowered to be involved in preliminary investigation.

·        The DPP were advised to reduce the processes or layers involved in drafting a legal advice, as a means of reducing the number of days a suspect spends in Pre-trail detention.

·        Participants in summit recommends that there should be Proper supervision and Effective Communication mechanism within the Criminal justice System in Imo State
·        The participants further encouraged the institutions within the criminal justice system to ensure Proper documentation of case files which they said would contribute in ensuring quality.

Resolutions
Resolutions came after extensive deliberations that took off with a welcome speech by the Executive director of CLEEN Foundation and a keynote address from the Imo State Attorney General and Commissioner for justice. Other top government functionaries including the Controller of Prison represented by the Deputy Controller of Prison in charge of Owerri prison, Representative of the Chief Judge, Chief magistrates, Director of Public Prosecution DPP, Civil Society actors, Academia, and commissioned presentations from experts in the field, each took turns to give a talk on their experiences and challenges in the management of pre-trail detention. 

The participants resolved as follows:

·        For there to be a proper management of Pre-trail detention in Imo State, there must be an effective interagency collaboration and cooperation wherein, no one agency should be privileged over and above the other or treated as if it is more important or superior to others.

·        Stakeholders such as Police, Judiciary, Prisons, Ministry of Justice, DPP, Academia, Media, Civil society organizations, should be proactive and use new management technologies that are based on performance measurement. Here indicators should be used as a management tool to enhance the management of pre-trail detention in particular and administration of criminal justice system in general.

·        An idle mind is the devils workshop; the high level of unemployed youths in Imo State is the first cause of criminality and thus increases in pre-trail detention. It was resolve that the state government should redouble its efforts in job creation to actively engage the youths and deter them from the commission of crime.

·        The State government should pay a regular visit to all the prisons and the State Chief Judge should facilitate executive pardon to inmate who cannot hire a lawyer and they have stayed for more than ten years in custody awaiting trial.
·        Obsolete laws should be repealed to be better address issues that hinder the proper management of the criminal justice sector and thus the management of pretrial detention.

Participants commended the organizers of the summit and called for the continuity of the medium as a platform for improving safety and security and ensuring confidence in the entire criminal justice system in Imo State.

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