SPEEDY TRIAL IN ACJA IN NIGERIA

SPEEDY TRIAL IN ACJA IN NIGERIA

Introduction

One of the most deleterious aspects of our judicial process is the time it takes to secure justice. It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. Delay in justice dispensation has over the years been a major impediment to effective and speedy dispensation of criminal justice in Nigeria. The Act was  to address this concern amongst others. One major resultant effect of these delays is the overcrowding of prisons across the country.

Speedy Trial

The Supreme Court in the case of Dasuki v FRN & Ors[1]held:

Speedy trial, in criminal proceedings is an aspect of the rights to personal liberty and fair hearing guaranteed, respectively by section 35 and 36 of the constitution. This speedy trial under our constitution is a valuable one and it is aims at serving three purposes, namely:

(1) it protects an accused against prolonged imprisonment;

(2) it neutralises the anxiety and public suspicion which leaving a case hanging on the neck of an accused engenders; and

(3) it prevents the means of proving the innocence (or otherwise) as a result of loss of witnesses and dulling away of their memory.

Of greater value for speedy trial, when the court is aware that the accused person is in custody, is the prevention of his punishment before his trial and conviction.

However, even though it is the desire of all involved in the administration of justice to uphold the principle which states that justice delayed is justice denied, it is equally unacceptable to encourage or do injustice in an attempt at speedy dispensation sometimes but it will arrive at its destination.[4] However, this is not an attempt of encouraging any acts of delay tactics from parties but in the dispensation of justice to all and sundry, fair hearing should be given to parties.

The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 contains a lot of innovative provisions aimed at ensuring speedy trials and eradicating prolonged detention

Stay of proceedings:[5]

An application for stay of proceedings in respect of a criminal matter before the court shall not be permissible. This unprecedented provision puts a gag on the delays in the trial process by interlocutory applications to stay proceedings pending appeal on preliminary matters even when the substantive issues are yet commence on the merits.

Day-to-day trial:

Upon arraignment, the trial of the defendant shall proceed from day-to-day until the conclusion of the trial. Where day-to-day trial is impracticable after arraignment, no party shall have more than five adjournments from arraignment to final judgment unless that the interval between each adjournment shall not exceed 14 working days.

Where it is impracticable to conclude a criminal proceeding after the parties have exhausted their five adjournments each, the interval between one adjournment to another shall not exceed seven days inclusive of weekend. In all circumstances, the court may award reasonable costs in order to discourage frivolous adjournments.[6]

Assignment of information and issuance of notice of trial:

Where an information has been filed in the court, the Chief Judge shall take appropriate steps to ensure that the information filed is assigned to a court for trial within 15 working days of its filing. On assigning the information, the court to which the information is assigned shall within 10 working days of the assignment issue notice of trial to the witnesses and defendants and a production warrant properly endorsed by the Judge in respect of the defendant charged, where he is in custody, for the purpose of ensuring his appearance on the date of arraignment, and the Chief Registrar shall ensure the prompt service of the notice and information not more than 3 days from the date they are issued.[7]

Time for raising certain objections:

After the plea has been taken, the defendant may raise any objection to the validity of the charge or the information at any time before judgement however that such objection shall only be considered along with the substantive issues and a ruling thereon made at the time of delivery of judgement.[8]

Timeline for Trial

Section 110 ACJA provides for a timeline in which criminal trials must be start and finish in Magistrates’ Courts. The Act requires that trial must commence within thirty days of filing and concluded within a reasonable time.

It further states that if a trial does not begin within the set time (30 days) or complete within a hundred and eighty days of arraignment, the Judge or magistrate must notify the chief judge the particulars and grounds for failure of starting or finishing the trial. It therefore follows that according to the Act, reasonable time means not more than one hundred and eighty days of arraignment

Return of Inmates

Section 111 makes it mandatory for the Controller-General of Prisons to make returns (every 90 days) of all persons held in prison custody for more than 180 days after the date of arraignment. The contents of the returns include the name of the suspect, passport photograph, date of arraignment or remand, date of admission to custody, particulars of the offence charged, court of arraignment, name of prosecuting agency and any other relevant information.

 

Related post: ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT, 2015

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[1] (2018) LPELR-43897(SC)

[2] (2013) LPELR-21212 (CA)

[3] (1981/82) BNLR 31,

[4] OGLI OKO MEMORIAL FARMS LTD V NACB LTD (2008) ALL FWLR (PT.419) 400 AT 403-403, P.418, PARA. E-H (SC)

[5] Section 306, Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015

[6] Section 396 (3) (4) (5) (6), Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015

[7] S. 382 (1) (2), Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015

[8] S. 396 (2), Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015

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