*Senior Magistrate, Rita Ikel Ititim Says delay in the dispensation of criminal justice hinders development and growth of Nigeria’s legal system.
*Rwadan Senior Advocate Jean Bosco MUTANGANA, Says Advocates and Prosecutors Have distinct roles to play in order to achieve Speedy Trials
*Law School Lecturer, Asma’u Muhammad Sulaiman Identities Trial Within Trial As Clog To Speedy Justice
*Taiwo Abiodun-Oni Advocates For Adoption Of Artificial Intelligence For Speedy Trials

Stakeholders in the Criminal Justice sector, in Abuja, yesterday, charted course as to practical steps and best practices in achieving speedy trials, effective mechanisms to manage pre-trial detention, prison decongestion, use of Artificial Intelligence in courts as well as the welfare of judicial offices and personnel of law enforcement.

The three-day event which continued yesterday, with the theme: Consolidating Reforms in Criminal Justice and Its Administration – Best Practices, has participants from across other African countries.

Speaking at the event organized by Juristrust Centre for Socio-Legal Research and Documentation (JCSLRD), a Cross River State, Senior Magistrate, Rita Ikel Ititim, said that delay in the dispensation of criminal justice has continued to hinder the development and growth of the legal system in Nigeria. Ititim, who spoke on the topic: “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: Delay in Trials as a Clog on the Wheels of Justice”, lamented that its negative impact does not only frustrate the defendants involved but also causes the society to lose confidence in the judiciary.

“The innovations brought by the recently enacted Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, with its clear objective of ensuring speedy trials among other things, these legislations serve best on paper as the problem persists continuously.

“This is evident in the number of awaiting trial inmates that crowd Nigeria’s correctional facilities without trial, and sometimes when such matters are successfully concluded, the defendant may be eventually acquitted without any compensation whatsoever for the unlawful period the defendant is kept in custody.”

She made reference to the criminal administrative justice of counties like Rwanda and Netherlands, are very much effective.

“Nigeria must move beyond enacting laws to adopting better and effective implementation mechanisms that will drastically reduce these delays and ensure speedy dispensation of criminal justice in court.”

“Nigeria has an avalanche of laws and institutions aimed at ensuring a speedy administration of criminal justice in the country.

Ititim, said, the Administration Of Criminal Justice Act, has attractive innovations aimed at speedy dispensation of criminal matters, such like Abolishment of Stay of Proceedings, Limitation on the Number of Adjournments, Payment/ Protection of Witnesses, Proof of Evidence Made Essential, A Judge/Magistrate Delivering the Judgment of Another, Limit to Trial -Within- Trial by Taking Confessional Statements in the Presence of a Legal Practitioner, Dispensing with the Presence of the Defendant, Limitation as to Time for Commencement of Trial.

The Senior Magistrate further noted that the following factors, Inadequate Court Facilities/Personnel, Transfer of Personnel, Paucity of Funds, Poor Remuneration/Welfare Packages, Lack of Will Power, Corrupt Practices, have served as a clog to delay the Administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria.

She concluded by saying that for there to be speedy dispensation of justice in our country, there must be follow-up mechanisms to ensure the proper implementation of laws and that these implementation mechanisms can not work without appropriate funding.

She recommended for Judicial autonomy, proper funding of other institutions/agencies involved in justice delivery; abolishment of trial within trial, Register of experts and interpreters should be kept; creation of special courts for other offences, amendment of the ACJA to accommodate constitutional concerns that have been raised since it was enacted in 2015, ACJA monitoring committee etc.

A Senior Advocate, Rwanda, Adv.Jean Bosco Mutangana, on “The Role Of Prosecutors/Defense Attorneys In Ensuring Speedy Trials”, Advocates and Prosecutors as well as other law enforcement officers within a judicial fraternity has distinct roles to play in order to achieve a trial without undue delay or a speedy trial. He said, when there is delay in the proceedings, it implies that there was lack of justice.

“The right to a fair trial encompasses a speedy trial inter alia, it is both a standard of international and domestic laws signed by many African countries, intended to safeguard people from illegitimate and unnecessary delays in the process of achieving justice.

“The fact is that speedy processing of cases is seen as both fair and impartial and without undue influence. Therefore, all parties involved in a criminal proceeding should emphasize on un-delayed judicial discourse.

“Rwanda has introduced Informal and traditional mechanisms of justice accessible to all citizens while providing speedy, cheap and meaningful remedies to such a class of people and this is seen as “user friendly” and provides a comparative advantage of both formal and traditional adjudication which creates an environment for a speedy process.

“In Rwanda, any unnecessary delays brought about by any party to the case can lead to sanctions by court especially in civil and commercial matters.”

“Once a decision to detain someone is taken, then guarantees for a speedy trial must be enforced to avoid justice delayed.

“However, while an expeditious judicial process is a fundamental right of the accused and many people want their case to resolve quickly, in some situations it can be beneficial to the suspects to have a large gap between the arrest and the trial as defense prepares evidence to challenge the prosecution case especially with regard to cross border and transnational organized crimes where evidence may be collected from different countries.”

A Nigerian Law School Lecturer, Kano Campus, Asma’u Muhammad Sulaiman, speaking on the topic: “Trial within trial as a Clog to fostering speedy trials”, noted that, while the Nigerian Constitution and the Constitution of other African countries have identified and guaranteed the Defendant the right to fair hearing and speedy trial, the administration of criminal justice systems allowed as a matter of procedure, trial within trial.

She pointed that speedy dispensation of justice cannot be achieved with trial within trial still in practice because that will cost not less that 5 adjournments. And this means a longer period for the defendant in detention awaiting trial.

“Though some scholar and lawyers have argued that trial within trial check the excesses of the law enforcement agents, this paper of the view that without going through the rigorous process of trial within trial, those excess can still be checked through examination-in-chief, cross-examination and re-examination of law enforcement agents and defendant.

Another way to check those excesses is the duration of the time the defendant spent in police custody[1] before he “volunteered” to make the statement on electronic records. The Act has also listed persons in whose presence they can make the statement, the defence can also call any of such person to testify when their brief revealed that the statement was not voluntarily given.

“Speedy dispensation of justice can not be achieved with trial within trial still in practice because that will cost not less that 5 adjournments. And this means a longer period for the defendant in detention awaiting trial.

“The provisions of the ACJA as well as the ACJL should be strictly adhered to, and the old practice gotten from jury system should be abandoned to enhance criminal justice system.”

She recommended that the provisions of the ACJA particularly sections 15, 17 and 396 are strictly adhered to and that the ACJA as well as the ACJL be implemented in states that have domesticated it, and for states yet to domesticate it, they should do so. That the ACJA monitoring committee be inaugurated in states that do not have the committee. She also called on NGOs to keep an eye on the committee and assist in discharging their duties where necessary.

A lecturer at Babcock University, School of Law & Security Studies, Taiwo Abiodun-Oni, in his presentation on the topic: “Smarter Courts, Smarter Justice: Adapting Artificial Intelligence to the Nigerian Judicial System,” highlighted the key areas why Nigerian judicial system should be automated.

Taiwo, noted that the current methods and processes applied in the day to day Nigerian court room are outdated and are a major contributory factor to the ever increasing problems facing the judiciary.

“Every single action or process to be carried out in the court of law can be made better through the adoption and adaptation of artificial intelligence and deep learning technology.

“The advantage of this ranges from case law search and review automation, speech to text output, small claims and traffic offence adjudication automation, stenograph automation, judgement forecasting, elimination of human bias & fatigue, criminal profiling, data storage and even to the infusion of risk assessment automation algorithms for granting pre/post trial bails in the case of likely recidivists amongst many others.”

“The focal points for selling artificial intelligence to any court are that it would make it faster, fairer and that unlike human judges, AI does not burn out and does not depend on some form of high glucose levels to function.”

“It is the time of Artificial intelligence and adaptation of modern technology to the issues and business of life; one of which is the justice system. Courts across the world have began to introduce certain aspects of artificial intelligence to simple court tasks  and this will on the long run force a multiplier in order to gain more.

“Nigeria is a long way away from adapting artificial intelligence to its criminal justice system despite the little effort launched by the Attorney General.

“Nigerian criminal justice system must move with the times and gradually adapt artificial intelligence as a complimentary system to the traditional justice system.

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