Renowned criminologist and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Central University College, Professor Kenneth Agyeman Attafuah, has rejected fears that a recent Supreme Court decision allowing suspects held in connection with alleged rape, murder, treason, defilement, or narcotic-related offences right to bail, will lead to an upsurge in crime across the country.
By a 5-2 majority decision, Ghana’s highest court ruled that Section 96(7) of Act 30, the six decade-old law, which barred persons alleged to have committed any of the above crimes from getting access to bail, was unconstitutional.
The decision was delivered by the court on Thursday May 5 in connection with a suit filed by private legal practitioner Martin Kpebu.
But the legal practitioner, speaking on Friday May 6, 2016, on Accra100.5FM’s morning show, Ghana Yensom, said most perpetrators of felony do not factor in their eligibility for bail or otherwise when plotting such acts, for which reason the ruling will have no influence on the decision of such persons to commit crime.
He told host Chief Jerry Forson: “Most persons who commit crimes do it on purpose. Apart from a few circumstances, most crimes are premeditated and well planned. Most persons hatching a plot to commit crime do not consider if they will be granted bail or not.”
He said some circumstances in the past had led to the enactment of laws making certain crimes not eligible for bail, the most recent being the removal of narcotics-related offences from the list of bailable offences.
Prof Attafuah gave an example of the erstwhile Kufuor administration’s decision to pass the Narcotic Offences Act to make the offence non-bailable when it realised that most persons granted bail for such offences jumped bail while those who stood surety for them sold their properties to defray the bail amount, while the accused walked free.
However, he insisted that the unavailability of bail for certain crimes had not prevented such offences from continuing to happen.
“Take the crime of armed robbery. It has always been there, it has always been treated by the courts as non-bailable. So, whoever faces that charge is remanded. It has not prevented people from being involved in armed robbery. It continues to rise”, he said.
He noted that combating the rise in crime was not about imposing stiffer punishments or refusing accused persons bail, but to improve citizens’ conditions generally.
“What will reduce crime levels is not the length of a sentence; deterrence does not arise from harsh prison conditions. Most convicts return from prison to break the law again. There could be several explanations for that but the crux of the matter is that people continue to go against the law not because there is bail or not,” he expressed.
“The best security against crime is to create better opportunities for the education of the youth of this country, better opportunities for youth to get reasonable employment, better opportunities for people to earn a living wage, so people can have peace of mind and hope and comfort. If you improve the economic and social base of society, you improve the scale of wellbeing in the country.”
He said there would be less crime if people were skilled and educated as they would be able to adequately care for themselves and their dependents and would not be enticed to steal or engage in other vices.
For him, the country needed to undertake some “social engineering” to improve the quality of life of everyone in order to bring crime levels down.
Prof Attafuah said ensuring a better life for all was a more effective tool than enacting Draconian legislation to deal with criminals.
“Death penalties existed throughout the PNDC era; it did not see violent crimes and fraud hurtling down. It is the same in countries where the death penalty remains on their books and is carried out, crime rates are not necessarily down,” added the law professor
He urged such countries to look to states like Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Canada, and New Zealand, among others, which have a much lower crime rate because they have instead focused on providing a better quality of life for citizens.
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