QUESTION OF THE DAY
About a dozen prisoners were protesting in court that they have been in the remand wing for more than a year without appearing in court. This would not have been possible if section 24 of the Constitution was adhered to which states in subsection (1) that
“Any court or other adjudicating authority established by law for the determination of any criminal trial or matter, or for the determination of the existence or extent of any civil right or obligation, shall be independent and impartial: and
(a) if any person is charged with a criminal offence, then, unless the charge is withdrawn; or
(b) where proceedings are commenced for the determination or the existence of any civil right or obligation,
the case shall be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time.”
In short apart from the trial being fair, it must be heard within a reasonable time. In fact this is more explicit for trial by a magistrate for which the Criminal Procedure Code specifically stipulates that a trial can be adjourned for not more than seven days if the accused is remanded in custody. These remanded prisoners are appearing before a magistrate and should not have been remanded for more than seven days.
When a detainee is left to languish in remand through negligence or otherwise it may amount to punishing a person who is presumed innocent until he/she is proven guilty or pleads guilty as pronounced in section 24 (3)(a) of the Constitution: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until he or she is proved, or has pleaded, guilty.”
Let us hope in the interest of justice the members of the bar who promised to liaise with the Attorney General’s Chambers will keep their promise and facilitate a speedy dispensation of justice. Let us also hope that the police prosecution and the prison authorities will live up to expectation and ensure that the remanded prisoners are in court on time. They are crying for justice and justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.