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Paul Wekem Kotuah, CPP writes on ‘ Impact of Corruption on the Justice System’

Corruption has been a constant menace in societies for a long period of time however it has only been in the past 20 years that this phenomenon has been seriously explored. This menace takes many forms and affects all arenas in our society today. Corruption in any form is a serious crime that threatens democracies, damages thrifts, diverts funds away from essential public services, and worsens societal inequalities especially in developing nations. This to a large extent affects the lives and destinies of citizens, corporate organizations, public sector and charity organizations.

Corruption is defined as the abuse of a trusted position in one of the branches of power (executive, legislative and judicial) or other organizations with the intention of obtaining material benefit which is not legally justified for itself or for others. Due to the infectious nature of this crime, it sometimes affects systems established to enforce the laws and control corruption.

The justice system is key in upholding the rule of law and legal security for individuals. This system is the network of government and private agencies intended to manage accused and convicted criminals. The criminal justice system comprises multiple interrelated pillars consisting of academia, law enforcement, forensic services, the judiciary, and correctional institutions. Thus, a well-functioning justice system is crucial to address corruption effectively, which in turn is important for development. Unfortunately, justice institutions are themselves corrupt. It is worth noting that, corruption of any form can undermine the performance and achievement of the justice functions thereby making the system ineffective.

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There is a general consensus that corruption in the justice system is destructive and should be addressed however there are particular challenges involved in fighting corruption. Corruption can occur at any stage of the criminal justice chain. It start from the police stations, prosecutors’ offices, the judiciary and in the prisons. Indeed, research has shown that criminal justice systems or institutions which are often the last resort for citizens to address corruption are severely affected by corrupt practices. Research indicates that corruption in the judicial system in most developing countries takes the form of bribery and political interference, but it is not limited to the aforementioned acts. It is also mentioned that a key impediment to the success of any anti-corruption efforts are corrupt justice institutions and officials.

The corruption in criminal justice systems arises as a result of many reasons including lack of proper monitoring systems for justice institutions, low salary, poor recruitment of officials, lack of transparency in the system, complex and bureaucratic justice procedures, unclear boundaries in the performance of justice duties, lack of proper standard operating procedures, lack of advanced technologies for institutions, political interferences among others.

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Corruption is seen to have a direct impact on the validity of human rights, largely because it deprives societies of important resources that could be used for basic needs, such as public health, education, infrastructure, or security. The OECD has indicated that the cost of corruption, in its different modalities, constitutes more than 5% of the global GDP. Thus all these monies are accrued by these institutions and some officials for their private gain. This deprives societies of development and robs citizenry of their fair share of the national cake. Although the problems exist globally, it can be seen as prevalent and greatly affecting less developed countries especially those in Africa.

Secondly, corruption has direct damaging consequences in general on the functioning of state institutions, and in particular on the administration of justice. A corrupt act during one step of the criminal justice chain can severely harm the whole process or even nullify its essence and erode public trust in law and order. Corruption decreases public trust and weakens the capacity of justice systems to guarantee the protection of human rights.

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