NEWS

Sentencing Guidelines to accelerate Decongestion of Correctional Centres – Malami


From Hassan Agboola


Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN said the Consolidated Federal Capital Territory Courts Sentencing Guidelines and Practice will accelerate decongestion of Correctional Centres nationwide.
This is contained in a statement issued by Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice which was made available to newsmen in Abuja on Monday 2nd day of November, 2020.
The Minister made the remark at the signing of the Consolidated Federal Capital Territory Courts (Custodial and Non – Custodial Sentencing ) Practice Directions, 2020.
He said  introduction of non-custodial sentences by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and more recently, the provision of a clear legislative and institutional framework for their implementation by the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 were efforts by the Federal Government aimed at addressing the colossal problem of congestion in correctional facilities in Nigeria. 
“The provision for non-custodial sentences such as probation, community service, restitution, compensation and suspended sentence by the ACJA 2015, was one of the main innovations of the Act”, he said.
He noted that on August 17th, 2020, during the Virtual Interactive Session to review the Draft of the FCT Courts Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Directions, 2020, organized by the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Justice, he explained that the Federal Capital Territory Courts Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Directions 2020 was geared towards implementing one of the major recommendations of the National Workshop on the Effective Implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, held between the 25th – 27th November, 2019 in Abuja. 

He said at that Workshop which brought together critical Stakeholders in the Administration of Justice Sector, both at the State and Federal levels, it was resolved that, for a proper and effective implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Direction commencing with the FCT, should be produced as a matter of urgency and issued especially for the implementation of non-custodial measures provided under Part II of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.
The Minister  said following the harmonization of the inputs of the stakeholders at the National Workshop, a Technical Working Committee put in place by the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion subsequently developed a Draft FCT Courts (Non-Custodial Sentence) Practice Directions, 2020. 
Malami recalled that at a retreat organized by the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion which held at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State from March 16th -18th 2020, ‘the Draft FCT Courts (Non-Custodial Sentence) Practice Directions, 2020’ was subjected to stakeholders review.
He said  stakeholders, after a review of the document recommended that the Draft be consolidated with the existing ‘Federal Capital Territory Courts (Sentencing Guidelines) Practice Direction, 2016 to avoid multiplicity of Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Directions on the same subject. The Minister said the Consolidated Draft Document was subjected to a general review at the Virtual Interactive Session held on August 17th, 2020 and later a Technical Working Committee made up of Judges, Magistrates from the FCT Judiciary and other relevant stakeholders was constituted to review, ratify, validate and adopt the consolidated draft document which will be signed today by my Lord, the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court.  “It is expected that this pilot document will be extended to other States of the Federation, especially those States that have enacted the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ADJA)”.”Our conviction is that these Guidelines and Practice Directions will bring about the expected change in sentencing and will in particular, effectively enable the deployment of non – custodial measures,” he said.
He said from experience from other jurisdictions, the Sentencing Guidelines will accelerate the decongestion of Correctional Centres nationwide adding that this was one of the focal objectives of this Present Administration.
He said the  objective of the consolidated Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Directions about to be signed today are as follows -(a)     to set out the appropriate standards and guideline for the sentencing process in offences against the state, person, public order, morality, homicide, property and corruption related offences, for the purpose of ensuring reasonable uniformity and fairness in sentencing in the Federal Capital Territory;(b)     to set out the requirements and procedure for imposing custodial and non-custodial sentences for the purpose of preventing abuse and  ensuring reasonable uniformity and fairness in the imposition of sentences; and(c)     to ensure that congestion in prisons is reduced to the barest minimum through the use of non-custodial sentences in line with section 470(2)(c) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (hereinafter referred to as ‘ACJA’) and section 2(1)(b) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.If Judges must not exceed the term prescribed in the statute creating an offence or exceed the quatum prescribed in punishing the offender, there must be a Sentencing Guidelines. For us to avoid disparity in sentencing from one judicial officer to the other, then there must be a uniform guidelines. 
He said that the draft Consolidated Sentencing Guidelines has taken into consideration all the factors enumerated under sections 311, 313, 316, 317 and 401 of the ACJA, 2015 especially the following – (a)     the objectives of sentencing, including the principles of reformation and deterrence, (b)     the interest of the victim, the convict and the community;  (c)     the appropriateness of non – custodial sentence or treatment in lieu of imprisonment;  and (d)     previous conviction of the convict. 

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