Mr Douglas Ogbankwa, a former Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Benin Branch, has called for a uniform sentencing guidelines for Judges and Magistrates to ensure fairness in courts
He supported the development of sentencing guidelines for courts in the criminal justice system
”Judges, magistrates and all presiding judicial officers in Nigeria are vested with wide discretionary powers, however noted that there is need to create a uniform guideline on sentencing so as to streamline the exercise of this discretion.
”Every pronouncement by a presiding Judge becomes law which must be obeyed and this wide judicial powers with regards to sentencing, should be guarded .
“The latitude and discretion given to my lords, their worships, and their honours, are however too wide and sometimes unfettered; this could give room for abuse and perversion of Justice
“There should be a uniform sentencing guideline issued to all judicial and presiding officers, which my lords, their worships, and their honours should subscribe to and apply to the letter.
“The concept of sentencing is a creation of statute and case law, if the body of laws says you can give an option of fine, why should a presiding officer order otherwise.
“The needless imprisonment of citizens is one of the reasons our prisons are congested.
“A matter with the same facts and circumstances should not be determined in a different manner, this will obviate the abuse of sentencing powers of judicial officers to preclude them from being excessive or too mild.”
Ogbankwa said that the granting of bail by judicial officers, requires more guidelines.
”It is often the most prone to abuse, added that bail is no longer entirely at the discretion of court.
“The Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Laws (ICJALs) of different states, have indicated matters in which a judicial and presiding officer must grant bail.
“So, it is no longer a privilege to the defendant for such matters indicated in the Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 and Administration of Criminal Justice Laws (ACJLs, but a right for which they can seek redress if denied bail.
“To this end, to ensure that the law is followed in symmetry, guidelines should be issued stating all the offences and conditions therein for bail, which should follow the statute creating the offence,” he said
He said that this should not be too excessive or too mild, in order to avoid allegations of bias or malice but to ensure that Judicial powers are exercised,with out affection or ill will. (NAN)