Stakeholders in the justice sector delivery system have advocated for the establishment of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Unit (ADR) at various police stations in the country.
These units would settle minor criminal offences and litigations, greatly help tackle rising overcrowding in the country’s prisons and ease congestion of cases in the judicial system as well.
The establishment of the units, the stakeholders, including security agencies, the National (NPC) Peace Council, the clergy, traditional authorities, academia, media and religious bodies, could be possible if portions of the ADR Act, 2010 (Act 798) were reviewed and amended.
At a round table discussion, held in Sunyani, the stakeholders identified inherent gaps in Act 798 which ought to be reviewed and amended, hence the need for the Act to capture petty criminal minor offences which usually fall under a misdemeanour.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) with support from Crime Check Foundation and Legal Resources Center, Non-Governmental Organisations with funding from the USAID under its Justice Sector Support (JSS) Activity organised a discussion, facilitated by the MIHOSO international, another NGO.
Mr Suallah Abdallah Qaundah, the Bono Regional Executive Secretary of the NPC explained the effective use of ADR in settling disputes and minor offences would greatly strengthen, sustain and consolidate the prevailing peace of the nation.
“ADR uses win-win approaches and when cases are settled no party would be felt defeated, and this would thereby promote friendship and deepen the national peace and social cohesion we are all enjoying as a nation”, he said.
In his view, Mr George Kafui Agbozo, a lecturer at the Catholic University College of Ghana (CUCG) and ADR practitioner with the Sunyani High Court, said amendment of the Act should also consider the remuneration of practitioners.
He said it was unfortunate ADR practitioners were not remunerated, saying because the services remained voluntary many certified practitioners were not interested to be attached to the high courts.
Superintendent Francis Numado, the Sunyani Municipal Police Commander described the review of the ADR Act as timely and appropriately and called on all stakeholders to support the process.
That notwithstanding, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Beatrice Korsah, the Bono Regional Coordinator of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) cautioned that cases of sexual violence such as rape, defilement and incest could not be settled through ADR.
She appealed to traditional authorities, in particular, to refrain from interfering, and allowed the police to prosecute perpetrators, saying sexual violence was not only a criminal offence but a worse form of human rights abuse as well.
Earlier, Mrs Mina Mensah, Director, CHRI Africa Office, Office said it was unfortunate suspects of minor offences, including petty theft were sentenced, thereby overcrowding the country’s prisons, and called for concerted support towards the review of the ADR Act.
She explained the rationale for the passage of the ADR Act was to facilitate and encourage out-of-court settlement of disputes, to ease congestion in court, however congestion in the courts and its associated problems still remained a major challenge affecting justice delivery in the country.