Seth Awuku, a candidate in legislative drafting at Athabasca University in Canada, has called on the Police not to prejudice the rights of accused in a trial.
According to him, the police must ensure that the identity and rights of the accused is protected. He indicated that it is important to ensure that opinions are not swayed against the accused before the case is determined by a law court.
Mr Awuku explained that having the public against an accused can possibly affect the outcome of their trial.
“I think the police must do everything reasonable to ensure that they do not prejudice the rights of the accused on matters that are brought in the public domain which is likely to affect his right to a fair trial in our democracy”.Seth Awuku
More often than not, Mr Awuku revealed that there are “leakages for purposes of trying to score” some points especially if the matter is a political case. This, he emphasized, significantly affects the rights of accused and potentially a fair trial.
“So, I think the police and media, in particular, must be circumspect in this respect to ensure fair trial and the rights of the accused are not abused.”Seth Awuku
Mr Awuku highlighted that when a person is first charged, that does not mean they are automatically guilty of the crime. He indicated that until a court of competent jurisdiction has pronounced that he is guilty, “he is still presumed to be innocent”.
“… A charge in itself is not enough for a person to be presumed guilty.”Seth Awuku
The private legal practitioner emphasized on the need for the general public, the police and the media to avoid making prejudicial comments and statements about an accused despite the gravity of the crime.
“It is only the court after listening to all the evidence, witnesses documentary or otherwise, that the court can reasonably come to the conclusion that this person is guilty or innocent.”Seth Awuku
Community sentencing of accused persons
Commenting on the appropriate sentencing for criminals, Mr Awuku called for non-custodial sentencing for persons who commit minor crimes. He opined that other options such as community sentencing should be considered in reforming citizens who violate the law.
Mr Awuku elaborated that a person’s sanction for a crime should depend on the severity of the crime.
“It is not all offences that should call for imprisoning the offender as a form of punishment. The gravity of a crime should determine the sanctions given.”Seth Awuku
Additionally, he indicated that “we have to consider whether the accused person is capable of endangering the community with the crime committed”.
Citing the case of the 29-year-old woman who was sentenced for faking her kidnapping in Takoradi, Mr Awuku expressed that the six-year jail term was too harsh for such as crime, insisting a community service would have been a better alternative.
“Hers was an excellent case for community service; I think the interest of society, the victim in order to deter her from behaving like that in the future, in order to send a signal to society that we don’t do things like that, it would have been better for her to do community service.”Seth Awuku