Language of criminal code is an Old Testament approach to handling crime, says Seth Awuku

He spoke to host Samson Lardy Anyenini on The Law programme, discussing community sentencing as an alternative to custodial sentencing.

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Candidate in Legislative Drafting at the Athabasca University in Canada, Seth Awuku says the wording of Ghana’s criminal code procedure connotes an “old testament approach to handling offence or crime.” 

“Look at Ghana’s section 29 (4) of its criminal procedure code. And if you look at the provision, the language there, it says: the following punishment may be inflicted on an offender. Now it talks about death, imprisonment, detention, etc. Now if you look at the language there, you can see that the philosophical foundation, of such an approach, is that it is retributive, it is vengeful, kind of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, an old testament approach to handling offence or crime,” he said.

He spoke to host Samson Lardy Anyenini on The Law programme, discussing community sentencing as an alternative to custodial sentencing. 

He adds that political actors ought to focus on a utilitarian approach to punishment, since community sentencing, embedded in that concept as well, seeks to better serve society's interest. 

"Society needs to move up, even the bible has moved away from the old testament, into the new testament. And that is where we have to have what is called a utilitarian theory of punishment. 

And unless our political leaders and actors really understand this utilitarian approach to building a good society in reforming our citizenry, especially when they offend in society, we will still be in the old school."


For some time now, stakeholders in the justice delivery system (the likes of CHRAJ and POS Foundation) have called for non-custodial sentencing, especially for offenders of petty crime. 

The argument is that not only will non-custodial sentencing such as community sentencing reduce congestion in the prisons, but it would also reduce the backlog of criminal cases in the law courts.

Thus in August 2020, Vice President Dr. Bawumia, at the graduation and commissioning parade for 150 cadet officers of the Ghana Prisons Service in Accra, disclosed that government will soon lay before Parliament, a bill for the promulgation of alternative sentencing that includes probation, parole, and community service.

Subsequent to that, on a working visit to the James Camp Prison and Senior Correctional Centre at Roman Ridge in November 2021, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Godfred Dame indicated that his office was preparing to lay before Parliament two bills proposing alternative sentencing other than custodial sentencing for lawbreakers.

Those two bills are the Plea Bargaining Bill and the Alternative Sentencing Bill.

According to Mr. Dame, while the Plea Bargaining Bill had had approval from the Cabinet to be laid before Parliament, the Alternative Sentencing Bill was undergoing stakeholder consultations.