Legal experts call for review of ADR Act

Some legal experts have called for the review of the Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR) Act and Legal Aid Commission Act to include petty offences.

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Some legal experts have called for the review of the Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR) Act and Legal Aid Commission Act to include petty offences.

The decision, they said, would help in promoting increased use of ADR for petty offences in the country’s criminal justice delivery.

Mr Martin C. Nwosu, Private Legal and ADR Practitioner was speaking during a stakeholders’ roundtable discussion on the need to review ADR Act, 2010 (Act 798) and the Legal Aid Commission Act, 2018 (Act 977) to include Petty Offences in Ghana.

He said the review would help reduce the overcrowding at the country’s prisons and the financial and infrastructural burden on the State.

Mr Nwosu said individuals jailed for committing petty offences could go through mediation and ADR processes for amicable settlement.

The Practitioner said, “our observation is that a number of offenders who commit petty offences languish in jail, and we do not think that it is the best thing for our society.”

In Ghana’s criminal jurisdiction, it is only a Judge who may refer cases to ADR as provided in Section 73 of the Courts Acts, 1993 (459) and Section 64(1) of ADR Act, 2010 (Act 798).

He said criminal cases begin with the police and as the experts continue to dialogue about some amendments to the Acts, it would be appropriate for the police to assist in setting up mediation units at their stations with trained officers, who would set aside petty offences for ADR.

“We are of the opinion that it should be possible for the police stations to have at least one mediation room and it should be managed by officers who have been trained in mediation and ADR processes,” he added.

Mr Ebo Dantse Benjamin, Member, Ghana ADR Hub, said “we needed as a nation to begin to profile all cases to determine which ones are worth prosecuting and those that need mediation to lessen the back lock of cases at court.”

He said offences like defrauding by false pretense sometimes turned out to be businesses not doing well and therefore parties could not fulfill the promises in stipulated times.

Mr Dantse Benjamin said there is the need to “promote the acceptance of Victim Offender Mediation as the preferred ADR process for the resolution of petty criminal offences.

Mr Alex Nartey, ADR National Coordinator at the Judicial Service, said, any criminal offence committed was against the State and it would take legislation to enable the police to do what was expected of them.

He said Judges were aware of the challenges within the justice delivery system that they ensure even in the absence of lawyers, the vulnerable brought to the law courts were guaranteed justice.

Mr Austin Gamey, Labour Consultant and ADR Practitioner, said we should not be too dependent on the law in operationalizing ADR.

He called for amendments to some provisions in the ADR Act.