Stakeholders in the justice delivery system have advocated the establishment of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) units at police stations in the country to settle minor criminal offences and litigations.
This will greatly help tackle rising overcrowding in the country’s prisons and ease the congestion of cases at the courts.
At a roundtable in Sunyani the stakeholders identified inherent gaps in Act 798, which ought to be reviewed and amended, hence the need for the Act to capture petty criminal minor offences usually falling under misdemeanour
It was organised by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative with support from Crime Check Foundation and Legal Resources Centre, non-governmental organisations and funded by the USAID, under its Justice Sector Support Activity, and facilitated by the MIHOSO International, another NGO.
The participants, including security agencies, the National Peace Council, religious bodies, traditional authorities, academia, and the media, said if possible portions of the ADR Act, 2010 (Act 798) must be reviewed and amended.
Alhaji Suallah Abdallah Qaundah, the Bono Regional Executive Secretary of the NPC, said the effective use of ADR in settling disputes and minor offences would greatly strengthen, sustain and consolidate the prevailing peace of the nation.
“ADR uses win-win approaches and when cases are settled no party would feel defeated, and this would, thereby, promote friendship and deepen the national peace and social cohesion we are all enjoying as a nation,” he said.
Mr George Kafui Agbozo, a Lecturer at the Catholic University College of Ghana, and ADR practitioner with the Sunyani High Court said amendment of the Act should also consider the remuneration of practitioners.
It was unfortunate that ADR practitioners were not remunerated and because their services remained voluntary many certified practitioners were not interested in being attached to the high courts, he said.
Superintendent Francis Numado, the Sunyani Municipal Police Commander, described the call to review the ADR Act as timely and implored all stakeholders to support the process.
That notwithstanding, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Beatrice Korsah, the Bono Regional Coordinator of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit, cautioned that cases of sexual violence such as rape, defilement and incest could not be settled through ADR.
She appealed to traditional authorities to refrain from interfering in such cases and allow the police to prosecute perpetrators, and said sexual violence was not only a criminal offence but a worse form of human rights abuse.
Ms Mina Mensah, the Director of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Africa Office, said it was unfortunate suspects of minor offences, including petty theft, were sentenced to jail terms, thereby overcrowding the prisons, and called for concerted support towards the review of the ADR Act.
The rationale for the passage of the Act was to encourage and facilitate out-of-court settlement of disputes to ease congestion in the courts, which remained a major challenge affecting justice delivery.