ACJA as key to modern criminal justice

By Chino Obiagwu, National Coordinator LEDAP

In the next 12 series, I will discuss the innovations in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, and will demonstrate how, if well implemented,they will reduce delays, modernise criminal justice administration and protect the rights of citizens in conflict with the law.

The first is the provisions to deal with protracted pre-trial detention. In the past under ACJA, remand proceedings were used to buy time in order to allow the Police conclude investigation or receive legal advice from the office of the Attorney-General on whether or not the evidence in the case file raise prima facie case to arraign the suspect. The suspect is charged before the magistrate’s court that, because it has no jurisdiction to try the offence would remand the suspect and remit the case for legal advice. In practice, this process creates bottleneck because if the case file is not moved to the AG’s office on time, it may get lost, and the suspect will be on remand detention indefinitely. This results in unduly protracted and long pre-trial detention. The ACJA has not created time protocols to ensure that criminal proceedings are handled with minimal delays. Under section 264 ACJL Lagos or sections 293 and 294 ACJ Act, where a suspect is arrested for an offence for which the magistrate has no jurisdiction to try, he shall ‘within a reasonable time,’ be brought before a magistrate’s court for remand using the ‘Request for Remand Form’ prescribed in the Appendix. A remand order may be made by the magistrate detaining the person in prison custody pending the time the prosecution files the proper charge or information at the court with jurisdiction to try him. Such remand order will be made if the information supporting the request for remand disclosed ‘probable cause’ to suggest that an offence might have been committed. In other words, the ACJA has given the magistrate the power to examine the ground for remand request, thus giving him jurisdiction over remand proceedings of such offence even if he does not have the jurisdiction to try the offence. The remand order must be made returnable within specified period of time, and if the person is not arraigned before the appropriate court within the set time limit, the magistrate is under obligation to grant bail to the person or discharge him unconditionally, after serving hearing notices on the Police and Attorney-General. The time frames for this remand protocol differ from one ACJ to another. Under ACJA, it is a total period of 28 days and under ACJL Lagos, a total of 90 days. The innovative implication of this provision is to separate the interlocutory remand proceeding from the proceeding for the substantive trial of the charge.

Read more at: