Programmes Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Esther Ahulu has revealed ongoing engagements to strengthen the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) legislation to deal with petty crimes.
She said the move is to prevent the imprisonment of poor and vulnerable persons in society because of their inability to pay court fines and the services of lawyers to defend them.
Speaking to crimecheckghana.org at a town hall meeting in Accra on the Case Tracking System (CTS) and the Relevance of employing ADR Mechanisms in Resolving Cases, Ms. Ahulu said talks have started with stakeholders to review and strengthen the ADR Act so that petty criminal cases can be resolved through the mechanism.
The Town Hall meeting was part of a series of engagements to educate the public on the Case Tracking System and the benefits of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism under the implementation of the USAID Justice Sector Support Activity (JSSA).
She noted that the financial burden of the poor and marginalized individuals would be reduced to enable them to access justice in a friendly and timeous manner.
Ms. Ahulu further explained that using ADR mechanisms to resolve petty crime cases would discourage the over reliance on custodial sentences to help decongest prisons.
“Criminal cases take too long to be dealt with and that is what the CTS has been introduced in the justice system to solve. The courts are overwhelmed with cases and that is what we are looking at to reduce the cases in court using the ADR mechanism to settle minor offences. This would mean that the many minor offenders would not land in prison to add on to the overcrowding in prisons authorities are battling,” she explained.
The purpose of the engagement is to strengthen the CTS through citizen engagement, empowerment, and the voice to demand accountability and improve services.
In attendance were representatives of security agencies, Justice Sector institutions, market women, various trade associations, media, and academia.
The USAID Justice Sector Support Activity (JSSA) aims at increasing citizen knowledge and access to Justice Sector services, strengthening advocacy interventions for accountability of key Justice Sector Institutions to improve justice delivery, and increasing citizens’ oversight and monitoring of criminal cases to enhance justice delivery.