Public Presentation Of Findings Of A Field Survey On The State Of Compliance With The Lagos State

On behalf of the Access to Justice, I warmly welcome you all to this public presentation of findings of our field research on the state of compliance with the Lagos State Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2011.

With a view to enhancing better respect for the rights of citizens by the police in the law enforcement process, as well as ensuring speedier dispensation of criminal justice, Lagos State passed a new Administration of Criminal Justice Law in 2011 which was intended to repeal and replace the old Criminal Procedure Law of Lagos State, 2004. Some of the daunting problems within the administration of criminal justice which the new law sought to regulate include 

  • The hauling of crime suspects into court before investigations.
  • The excessive time taken to conclude crime investigations and consequential remand of suspects pending conclusion of investigation or trial;
  • The weak records-keeping systems from which cases being tried accidentally but occasionally slip out  into oblivion,  and 
  • Poor judicial oversight over “remand” detention leading to prolonged pre-trial or under-trial imprisonment of criminal defendant.
  • The practice of extracting confessional statements from crime suspects by means of torture and other oppressive methods of interrogation

 The reforms initiated by the new law, the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, 2011 (otherwise referred to as “ACJL”) include:

  • The provision of substantial safeguards against the use of torture by the police in the interrogation process,by requiring that confessional statements by crime suspects must only be admissible in evidence if they were video-recorded or taken in the presence of counsel (lawyer) to the accused person.
  • The creation of an oversight system (run and regulated by magistrates) for remand detention to insure that persons on remand are not, by some default, remain on prolonged and seemingly interminable incarceration.
  • The codification of the rights of the crime suspect to remain silent at police interrogation  until after consultation with his counsel -- commonly referred to as the “Miranda” rights and
  • The liberalizing of sentencing or punishment to include non-custodial sentencing like community services.

These reforms were expected, among other things, to ease prison congestion, end the abuse of the remand system, improve the delivery of criminal justice services by the courts, enhance capacity of law enforcement officials to act responsibly, accountably and professionally, as well as ensure better safeguards for the rights of persons who are processed through criminal justice system.

Access to Justice with the support of DFID funded J4A Programme conducted a three (3) months research, from May 2013 to July 2013, to ascertain the level of awareness, compliance, implementation and enforcement of the ACJ by law enforcement officials – i.e the Police and the Magistrates. The overriding objective of the research is to bridge the gaps militating against the understanding and effective implementation of the reforms through identification of impediments to the implementation of the Law and preferring recommendations that can plug these gaps. This presentation highlights key findings of the research.

The Findings
The study reveals that after six years from the time the reform changes were first enacted into law in 2007, and two years after the more recent amendments to the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of 2011,the creative push for reform in Lagos State and the lofty goals and the outcomes envisaged by the legislation have not been achieved till this time. Our research validates the experience of many: not much has changed within police institutions and even in the courts since the introduction of ACJ law. Notable amongst the causes for this set-back is the pervasive ignorance of relevant provisions of this new law by institutions directly obligated by the laws – the police (or law enforcement agencies). From AJ’s findings, only 29% of police officers in Lagos State are familiar with the ACJ Law 2011 (as amended) or have received any formal training on the provisions of the Law. Specifically, our findings show that:

Over-sighting Police Detention
Little change has occurred with regard to reforms relating to arrest practices and procedures by law enforcement groups. Magistrates unanimously report that the police do not usually inform them of cases of persons who are arrested and kept in police custody without being offered bail, or of persons who are arrested without a warrant and are detained without any charges brought to court. Corroborating this, 92% of police officers interviewed indicated that they do not notify district magistrates of cases of persons arrested. Indeed, 70% of the police officers interviewed reported that they are not aware of this requirement of the law.  40% of the police officers added that there are no existing templates or forms provided in the Law which can serve as a guide for such notifications to guide them in fulfilling this requirement.

Regulating Arrest Practices and Procedures
The research establishes that little change has occurred with regard to reforms relating to arrest practices and procedures by law enforcement groups. The law provides that upon arrest there should be notification of the cause of arrest. However 65% of police officers reported that they usually inform suspects of the cause of arrest only at the point of detention after the suspect arrives at the police station. 96% of sampled inmates and 92% of the sampled lawyers reported that police officers do not inform arrested persons of their rights to apply for bail or free legal representation as required by the law nor do police officers provide any facilities for arrested persons to obtain such services

Bail Procedures
The findings indicate that there have been no real improvements in the practice of bail in Lagos State since the commencement of the ACJ Law. 75% of the lawyers and 89% of the prison inmates interviewed stated that the police do not release detained suspects on bail where it is impractical to bring such suspects to court within 24 hours. Still in connection with bail, 9% of police officers interviewed still maintain the practice of not accepting women as sureties when granting police bail.

Pre-trial Detention and Speedy Trial
Sadly, much unjustified time continues to be wasted between the filing of information or charges against suspects and the eventual trial of such suspects who are typically left to languish under grueling detention or prison conditions. 55% of lawyers report that many of the magistrates in Lagos State do not comply with the oversight safeguards enshrined in the ACJ Law concerning sixty days adjournments with respect to persons detained under remand orders. The failure to exercise adequate oversight over remand detentions has also negatively impacted prison demographics. As at the time of this research, the Medium Prison, Kirikiri with a capacity of 1, 700 inmates, held 2,592 inmates out of which 2, 437 were awaiting trial inmates otherwise termed as remand prisoners. Similarly the Medium Prison, Badagry with a total capacity of 160 inmates, is home to 509 inmates out of which 204 were remand prisoners. Finally, the Medium Prison Ikoyi, with an 800 inmate capacity, houses 1847 inmates, out of which 1, 709 were remand prisoners.

Taking Confessional Statements
Provisions relating to the taking of confessional statements of suspects have remained grossly ignored by the police and unenforced by magistrates. Besides safeguarding the constitutional rights of suspects, these provisions could also have eased concerns over the voluntariness of confessional statements and reduced the frequency of attacks on those statements.  Virtually all those interviewed – police officers, prison inmates and Lawyers were all nearly unanimous in saying that police officers do not make video recordings when obtaining statements from arrested persons, neither do they alternatively make sure that a lawyer is present first before embarking on an interrogation or obtaining a statement from an arrested person.

Non-Custodial Sentencing
The perennial problem of prison congestion is no doubt worsened by the discernible failure of magistrates to embrace forms of non-custodial sentencing as an alternative to imprisonment provided under the Law. 82% of Magistrates reports that they employ community sentence orders for only the most minor offences – such as the theft of mobile phones - particularly where stolen items have been recovered, or traffic or environmental offences. However, 18% of magistrates reported that due to the challenges of enforcement, they do not make community service orders at all but would rather impose fines on persons convicted of minor offences or first time offenders.

CONCLUSION
Have the reforms introduced by LagosState changed the landscape of criminal justice administration? The answer at this time is no: they have not. Not because they lack the power to, not because they come short in any known respects but because they have mostly been ignored or are yet to be taken seriously by those whom they bind. The basic inference, from this research, is that law enforcement institutions in Lagos State have fallen short in implementing the reforms introduced by the ACJ law. This will need to change for the reforms to stand a chance of achieving its goals or producing some impact in the State.

Our recommendations therefore include creating more awareness about the provisions of the law and providing training on the reforms brought about the law amongst principal stakeholders, particularly amongst law enforcement communities. To this end Access to Justice is collaborating with the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to conduct series of training workshops on the ACJ Law for both the Magistrates and the Police. The first of these workshops, which is principally designed for senior police officers, will take place sometime in early December, 2013 

Thank you.