Administration Of Criminal Justice Act

The introduction of the new Administrastion of Criminal Justice Act (2015) remains the bold and decisive measure to tackle the delay in the dispensation of justice and frast-track the criminal justice .system in the country. JITI OGUNYE writes

The Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 was enacted by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It commenced on the 13th of May, 2015. The Act makes provisions for the Administration of Criminal Justice and for related matters in the Courts of the Federal Capital Territory and other Federal Courts in Nigeria, including the Magistrates’ Court and Federal Capital Territory Area Courts. The Act repealed the Criminal Procedure Act, Cap C41 LFN 2004, Criminal Procedure (Northern States) Act, Cap C42 LFN 2004 and the Administration of Justice Commission Act, Cap A3 LFN 2004 which had been in existence and operation before 13th of May, 2015. The Act is divided into 49 Parts and 495 Sections for ease of reference and citation. The Act also has four (4) schedules. The First Schedule contains 21 Forms.

The other three schedules contain precedents and forms. These precedents and forms in the four schedules include general form of title of proceedings; order of recognizance to keep the peace and be of good behaviour; complaints; summons to defendant; warrant for arrest of defendant who has disobeyed summons; warrant of arrest of defendants in first instance; search warrant; forms for remand proceedings; information on legal representation; summons to witness; form of information; forfeiture on conviction; warrant for apprehension of a witness; warrant for arrest of witness in first instance; warrant to commit a witness; conviction[ imprisonment]; order for money[ not a civil debt]; order of dismissal with damages; order for other matters; order of dismissal; warrant of distress[for penalty]; form of charge under the penal code{ A- charges with one head, B-charges with two or more heads}; Information Precedent; scale of imprisonment for non-payment of ordered to be paid; order for execution; order for commutation of sentence; endorsement on warrant of arrest; endorsement on warrant of distress; warrant to arrest a person failing to appear pursuant to recognizance; recognizance of witness; recognizance of witness conditionally bound over; notice to witness that defendant has not been committed for trial; notice to witness bound over that he is to be treated as having been bound over conditionally; notice to witness bound over or treated as bound over conditionally; and controller general of prison returns of person(s)awaiting trial.

The purpose and application of the Act is stated under Part 1 with specific emphasis on Sections 1 and 2. Thus, it is an Act that applies to criminal trials for offences established by an Act of the National Assembly and other offences punishable in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. This means the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 are not applicable to the trial and proceedings of state offences in the respective Criminal Code Law of the Southern States of Nigeria, and the respective Penal Code Law of the Northern States of Nigeria and other state offences, tried in the High Court of the States and Magistrate’s Courts and Area Courts and other tribunals Objectives of the ActTo ensure that the system of administration of criminal justice in Nigeria promotes efficient management of criminal justice institutions. To ensure speedy dispensation of justice considering the slow pace of criminal justice administration, and indeed the entire justice administration system in Nigeria.

To ensure that the society is adequately protected from the evil enace of crime. To put in place a structure that protects and enhances the rights and interests of the suspect, the defendant and the victim; and To allow easy and equal access to justice.

Key elements of the Act

The Act re-enacts the basic criminal procedure, governing arrests, search, arraignment, objection to the charge, plea, bail, trial, no-case submission, judgment, conviction and sentence. The Act now goes further to introduce the following key elements:- .Non-application of the Act to Court Martial as provided under Section 2 (2) of the Act. No unnecessary restraints are to be used on suspects, except as provided under the Act under Section 5 (a) – (c). The challenge here, though, is that in this era of insurgency, persons accused of terrorism charges may want to also extend the cover of the grace of not being manacled ( handcuffed and leg-chained) to themselves. It does appear that this provision was inserted by the ruling political elite to prevent being handcuffed in anti-corruption cases ( for example former IGP Tafa Balogun) , without due regard being paid to international criminal arraignment practices, where accused persons are brought to Court handcuffed, regardless of whether a violent offence is being charged or not; or whether the accused is prone to violent or erratic behaviour or not. Section 6 of the Act provides that a police officer or a person making an arrest should inform the arrested person the reasons of his arrest and to inform such person the rights that he has which include remaining silent until he consults with his lawyer and also the availability of free legal representation by the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria where applicable.

Prohibition of arrest in lieu as provided under Section 7 of the Act. This means the practice by the Police arresting a wife in order for a wanted husband to show up, or a father in order for a son to show upfor arrest has been barred. The establishment of a Criminal Records Registry at every State Police Command under Section 16 (1) of the Act to ensure the availability of vital information that will assist a speedy trial process and for future referencing purposes. Quicker and faster trial process as provided under Sections 221, 309, and 396 of the Act as related to the time for raising objections and requesting for adjournments, and application for stay of proceedings. By this provision of this Section, all objections taken at the trial will now be considered and ruled upon in the final judgment.

Section 221 provides that “ objections shall not be taken or entertained during proceedings or trial on the ground of an imperfect or erroneous charge “Section 306 provided that “ an application of a stay of proceedings in respect of a criminal matter before the Court shall not be entertained” Section 396 provides that “ the defendant to be tried on an information or charge shall be arraigned in accordance with the provisions of this Act relating to the taking of pleas and the procedure on it” “(2) after the plea has been taken, the defendant may raise any objection to the validity of the charge or the information at any time before judgment, provided that such objection shall only be considered along with the substantive issues and a ruling thereon made at the time of delivery of judgment” “(3) upon arraignment, the trial of the defendant shall proceed from day to day until the conclusion of the trial”.

By JITI OGUNYE

Source:Leadership.ng

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