I’ll push for alternative sentencing regime to decongest prisons – Godfred Dame

The Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame has outlined a plan as he takes up the office of Minister of Justice.

He swore his oath of office on March 4, 2021, coming in as the youngest lawyer ever to occupy the position.

Even before he settled down to it, he’s given an indication of his priorities.

At an introductory meeting with the Chief Justice, Kwasi Anin-Yeboah on Monday, Mr. Dame said he will focus on protecting the sanctity of the court, and champion an alternative sentencing regime to decongest the country’s prisons.


Protecting the court

Mr. Dame assured the Chief Justice and Justices of the Supreme Court at the meeting that he will go all out to protect the integrity and the sanctity of the court.

“Having been appointed as the Attorney General, indeed I give my firm commitment to you that I will not hesitate at all in taking any measure including the filing of contempt charges or the institution of relevant action to protect the integrity of the court. The Attorney General is supposed to be the chief defender of the court and I will not want to relent in that duty because if the administration of justice is denigrated, the foundations of the State itself will collapse”, he assured.

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Alternative sentencing regime

Mr. Godfred Dame noted that the country’s prisons are choked and there was the need to rethink the country’s sentencing regime which he described as “one means through which we think we can free up our prisons”.

He insisted that some of the statutes would have to be relooked at to consider community sentencing and other innovative means of punishing Crime such as suspended sentences.

But, on economic crimes, the Attorney General said the courts must take a strict punishment approach to ensure that the State recuperates whatever pecuniary losses that may have been occasioned by the particular officer.

The State must become better off after such prosecutions, he said.

He disclosed that he had already taken steps in this light.

“Even before I assumed office, I got in touch with the Director of Legislative Drafting for her to send me some ideas on alternative sentencing and she did so. She has started putting together a draft that will constitute a Bill for Alternative Sentencing which is one means by which to free up the Prisons. We will put all together and present a Bill to Parliament on Alternative Sentencing.”

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Infrastructure and human resource

Taking cognizance of the deplorable infrastructure and poor conditions of service of Staff, Mr. Dame said he is going to immediately turn his attention to improving the situation.

“My first major priority will be a boost in the human resource capacity of the office. I recognize that the Attorney General’s office is inadequately staffed and there’s the need for us to boost the number of State Attorneys we have. Even equipping them properly to undertake the demands of their work; there’s the lack of desks, computers, inadequate space, some of them you won’t believe are even housed in Containers which is an unpleasant sight”.

“There’s this uncompleted storey building which has been sitting there for about 15 years, next to the Court Complex, which is supposed to be the Office of the Attorney General. It’s a 10-storey building. I’ve set out to ensure the completion of that project. Thankfully the Ministry of Finance seem to be aligned, and they have allocated the sums required for the completion of the project. I will just follow up and ensure they release the sums”.

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Under a Godfred Dame Yeboah stewardship, Ghanaians are to expect that opinions and agreements which come out of the Attorney General’s Office will be thoroughly scrutinized, and would meet the people’s demands for judicious use of resources.

The office will also prioritize the fight against economic crime and ensure expeditious trial.

The citizens should expect a new outlook of the Office as a standard-bearer of practice.