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Prisons decongestion: Committee justifies sentencing guidelines’ review

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By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja

The Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reforms and Decongestion (PCCSRD) has justified the need for the review of the Sentencing Guidelines of courts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

PCCSRD’s Secretary, Mrs. Leticia Ayoola-Daniels said the review is intended to cure the inadequacies inherent in the 2016 Practice Direction, which did not make adequate provision for non-custodial measures.

Mrs. Ayoola-Daniels spoke in Abuja on Wednesday during a technical session with relevant stakeholders in the justice sector to validate the draft FCT Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Direction 2020,

According to her, the 2016 guidelines need a review to ensure fairness, consistency and uniformity in imposition of both custodial and non-custodial sentencing.

Mrs. Ayoola-Daniels added: ”The existing Federal Capital Territory Courts (Sentencing Guidelines) Practice Direction, 2016 did not make adequate provision for non – custodial measures and requires immediate review to address existing gaps, relating to non-custodial sentencing and to ensure fairness, consistency and uniformity in imposition of both custodial and non-custodial sentences.”

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She said the technical session will collate and validate all contributions made to the draft and produce a comprehensive draft that will be signed off by the Chief Judge FCT.

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami had, while speaking on Monday said the proposed consolidated sentencing guidelines will ensure that congestion in prisons in Nigeria is reduced to the barest minimum through the use of non-custodial sentences.

The AGF said this is in line with section 470(2)(c) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA’, 2015 and section 2(1)(b) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.

Malami, who spoke at the virtual interactive session of the PCCSRD with stakeholders to review the federal Capital Territory Courts Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Direction 2020, said the guideline is geared towards implementing one of the major recommendations of the National Workshop on the Effective Implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.

According to him, some of the objectives of the proposed guidelines is to set out the appropriate standards and guideline for the sentencing process in offences against the state, person, public order, morality, homicide, property and corruption related offences, for the purpose of ensuring reasonable uniformity and fairness in sentencing in the Federal Capital Territory;

He said the new guideline is to set out the requirements and procedure for imposing custodial and non-custodial sentences for the purpose of preventing abuse and ensuring reasonable uniformity and fairness in the imposition of sentences.

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