UG Snr Law Lecturer pushes for mainstreaming of 'Restorative Justice' in Ghana’s Criminal Justice System

“Generally, our legal system has not mainstreamed Restorative Justice."

Is allowance instantly strangers applauded

A Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana School of law, Dr. Abdul Baasit Aziz Bamba has called for the mainstreaming of Restorative Justice into Ghana’s Legal (Criminal) Justice system.

According to him, there hasn’t been any conscious effort to mainstream Restorative Justice into Ghana’s Criminal Justice System.

Also, Dr. Baasit bemoaned the shortfalls in Ghana’s theories on punishment, which is rather contributing to a high rate of recidivism among former criminals.

“Generally, our legal system has not mainstreamed Restorative Justice into our criminal justice process. There hasn’t been any conscious effort to mainstream restorative justice into our legal system. Particularly our criminal justice system.’

Delivering his speech as the keynote speaker at a Special Roundtable Discussion on ‘Restorative Justice in Ghana’, Dr. Aziz Bamba also noted that though our Constitution, 1992 has various provisions on Justice, it fails to subscribe to any particular theory.

Why Restorative Justice

He noted that the traditional approach of Ghana’s criminal Justice system has always paid attention to and considered the interests of the state at the expense of the liberties of the individual accused persons.

Additionally, he said that over time, there arose the need to create a minimal provision for the interest of the individual victim thus Restitution as found in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1960(Act 30).

As a result of the traditional approach to criminal Justice in Ghana, Dr. Baasit added that our Criminal Justice system is currently faced with a host of challenges like the huge backlog of cases, overcrowded prisons, and high rate of recidivism among others.

“It will not be an exaggeration to say that our criminal justice system is in crisis.”

Moreover, the lecturer said that these challenges have created inefficiencies in the criminal justice system thus the need to re-imagine how our criminal justice system works there by the need for Restorative Justice.

Concept of Restorative Justice

Dr. Baasit noted that Restorative Justice is not only an intellectual discipline but also a social movement and is interested in a certain kind of dialogue or communication among the key stakeholders in the community affected by crime, the victim as well as the offender.

He said that the aim is to bring about healing and attempt to undo the harm that has been caused to all the stakeholders through a process of dialoguing communication and healing.

This is done by creating safe spaces for dialogue and communication about injustice hoping that through the process, you are going to have forgiveness, mending, healing, and all other positive things.

Furthermore, Dr. Baasit bemoaned the fact that Restorative Justice has not been mainstreamed in Ghana’s legal justice system irrespective of the fact there exist avenues that contain aspects of Restorative Justice.

 “There are avenues within our legal system for restorative justice for example our Juvenile Justice Act, 2003(Act 653), certain sections provide for the best interest of the juveniles. It makes it possible for juveniles to be reprimanded for them to issue written apologies to their parents or victims of crimes. The National Reconciliation Commission Act. We also have a semblance of Restorative Justice under the Domestic Violence Act, the recently passed Plea Bargaining Bill.”

Dr. Baasit further mentioned that Ghana’s Judiciary was currently assisted by the USAID to come out with a Ghana sentencing guideline that has provisions for victim impact statements.

He, therefore, called for an enabling legislative framework, training and resources, and legal reforms to enhance the operation of Restorative Justice.

“One key thing for me is for you to have an enabling legislative framework that recognizes the benefits of restorative Justice. Luckily for us, our Parliament is increasingly looking in that direction.

One other challenge has to do with training and equipping persons with appropriate skills to be able to implement Restorative Justice processes.

We also need resources because the Restorative Justice program requires resources for implementation. There may also be the need for law reforms and experimentation to see what works.”

The Discussion, which was organized by the University of Ghana School of Law in collaboration with California State University, Sacramento Divison on Criminal Justice, also had various panel speakers who spoke on the operations of Restorative Justice in their areas of work.

They included; the Legal Aid Officer, Ms. Rita Ali, Director of CHRAJ, Mrs. Mary Adjetey Nartey; Director of Legal Service CHRAJ, Mr. Bede Tukuu; Rep from FIDA Ghana, Ms. Kezia Kenneth Azuma, and California State University Team, Dr. Nicole Fox and Dr. Alexa Sardina.