The Standing Conference of Mediation Advocates (SCMA), an organisation, has urged the Judiciary to develop manpower to improve the implementation of non-custodial sentencing in the justice sector.

The SCMA, is a multi-disciplinary cross-professional trade organisation established to promote and deliver best practice and professional excellence in mediation advocacy through in individual and corporate training and commercial activities.

The Convener of the SCMA, Mr Valentino Buoro, made the call in an interview with a correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday, in Lagos.He said that non-custodial sentencing through restorative justice system is a process for resolving crime that focuses on redressing the harm done to the victims, holding offenders accountable and engaging the community in the resolution of that conflict.

”The import of non-custodial sentencing is to decongest the correctional centres and serve as a deterrent to minor offenders.” Non-custodial sentencing as part of restorative justice has enabled minor or first offenders of minor offence to undergo punishment of a practical time like community service.”Such minor offenders are made to work in a public space like controlling traffic, cleaning environments or sometimes asked to return the stolen item to the victim.

“Though this practice is gradually taking off in Nigeria, there is still a lot of ignorance and lack of skilled officials to manage the process.“I think the first place to start is to develop the manpower to manage the process.

“Apart from restorative justice practitioners who may facilitate the processes in court, we need other officials or skilled managers who will be able to monitor the process of enforcement.

“This can be achieved if the courts give strong indications to deliberately train professional staffs,” Buoro said. He said though the process was gradually taking off in the country, it would also help to reduce the workload of magistrates and judges in the courts.

He said that the Lagos State Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) 2015 makes provision for non-custodial measures or punishment – Fines, probation, community service, rehabilitation, deportation, cost, compensation and damages; seizure, restitution, forfeiture and disposition of property. We shall focus on fines, probation and community service. Buoro urges other states of the federation to follow suit. (NAN)

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