The Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, said the consolidated federal capital territory courts sentencing guidelines and practice will accelerate decongestion of correctional centres across the country.
Malami made the remark at the signing of the 2020 Consolidated Federal Capital Territory Courts Custodial and Non, Custodial Sentencing Practice Directions on Monday.
He said that the introduction of the non-custodial sentences by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and more recently, the provision of a clear legislative and institutional framework for their implementation by the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 were efforts by the Federal Government to address the colossal problem of congestion in correctional facilities across Nigeria.
“The provision for non-custodial sentences such as probation, community service, restitution, compensation and suspended sentence by the ACJA 2015, was one of the main innovations of the Act.”
He noted that during the Virtual Interactive Session in August to review the Draft of the 2020 Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Directions, he made it clear that the aim was geared towards implementing one of the major recommendations of the National Workshop on the Effective Implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, held in 2019 in Abuja.
“The Workshop which brought together critical Stakeholders in the Administration of Justice Sector, both at the State and Federal levels, resolved that for a proper and effective implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Direction commencing with the FCT should be produced as a matter of urgency and issued for the implementation of non-custodial measures provided under Part II of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.
Earlier, the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello said the signing of the guideline is a milestone achievement in the FCT Judiciary.
”The lack of sentencing guideline in the past has led to misconception with the court often being accused of either being unduly lenient or of playing to the gallery by imposing severe punishment upon conviction especially in cases of public interest,” he said..
Justice Bello, who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Committee, said developing a set of guideline circumscribe the latitude to impose sentences but within the limit prescribed in statuses.
“The proposed guidelines will therefore provide a system for handing down uniform or consistent sentences for similar crimes where it is strictly followed.
“It will also assist judge decide with the potential to help eliminate confusion among judges in determining the proper punishment for a convict taking into consideration factors such as nature of the crime, prior criminal history and public interest.
According to Bello, “another potential benefits of the application of the guidelines is that the resulting sentences become fairly predictable and the jurisdiction can begin to use that information to forecast and manage correctional resources,” he added.