Article 88 of the 1992 Constitution provides that there shall be an Attorney-General who shall be a Minister of State and the Principal Legal Advisor to the Government. The Attorney-General is responsible for the initiation and conduct of all prosecutions of criminal offences and all civil litigations, for and on behalf of the State and have audience in all courts in Ghana. Also, the Attorney-General is responsible for rendering legal advice when requested. The Attorney-General is also responsible for the drafting of legislation to give effect to policy decision taken by Government.
Criminal prosecutions are usually conducted by State Attorneys who work at the Public Prosecutions Division of the Office of the Attorney-General. However, the Office of the Attorney-General is understaffed to execute its mandate and make legal services available throughout the country. The Office of the Attorney-General is not also present in the districts, but crime is ubiquitous and crime rates are increasing. It is in this context that the Attorney-General has given fiat to the police to prosecute some criminal cases on behalf of the Attorney-General; unlike the Office of the Attorney-General, the police are present in all the districts of the country.
Despite many constraints, Police Prosecutors play a pivotal role in the administration of criminal justice. In recent times, the Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice has received many complaints regarding Police Prosecutors’ conduct of prosecutions – specifically their handling of cases, treatment of victims, witnesses and offenders and prosecutors’ legal competence. However, citizens’ knowledge, experiences and perceptions on the work of Police Prosecutors in Ghana have not been adequately documented. This study, therefore, set out to assess citizens’ perspectives on the effectiveness of Police Prosecutors in the administration of criminal justice in Ghana.
The purpose is to provide the Ministry with accurate and current data to inform the deployment of strategies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Police Prosecutors. This would also facilitate the Ministry’s supervisory role and coordination with the Police Prosecutors in the prosecution of crime, resulting in increased public trust.
The study employed a cross-sectional survey approach and data were generated using structured questionnaires. The key units of analysis comprised Ghanaians aged 18 years and above who have had personal experience or vicarious experience with Police Prosecutors (i.e., victims, witnesses, offenders, etc.) as well as persons/parties involved in ongoing cases in which Police Prosecutors were handling. The study was carried out in the following districts in the Greater Accra Region: Tema Metropolis, La Nkwantanang-Madina Municipality, Ga West Municipality and Accra Metropolis. The study sample was determined using multi-stage sampling and convenience sampling procedures. Based on hindsight, time and resources available, a sample size of two-hundred (200) was deemed adequate for the study. The results are presented using descriptive statistical techniques such as tables, charts, graphs, percentages and frequencies. The research was undertaken between August and October of 2021.
From the study, it is evident that respondents understand the work of Police Prosecutors, a large majority of (72.3%) responded in the affirmative when quizzed about the work of the Police Prosecutors, 12.4% respondent in the negative whilst 15.3% respondent were not sure or do not know.
Regarding respondents’ knowledge or experience of Police Prosecutors in Ghana, it turned out that three-fourths (84.7%%) of the respondents had knowledge or experience of Police Prosecutors in Ghana. A reasonable proportion (15.3%) of the respondents had no knowledge or experience of Police Prosecutors in Ghana. The study showed that a large majority of the respondents had knowledge or experience of Police Prosecutors in Ghana.
Majority (54%) of the respondents perceived the Police Prosecutors as not independent in prosecuting cases in court. The reasons proffered for this perception included the fact that Police Prosecutors mostly rely on the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and the Office of the Attorney-General for advice on some cases before going to court. Some respondents also said some Police Prosecutors are biased when prosecuting cases, they believe Police Prosecutors take bribes in some instances from accused persons to mar cases and cause undue delays. Some respondents said some prosecutors take money from complainants before they proceed to court. Some respondents also indicated that Police Prosecutors take orders from politicians or government of the day, chiefs and other opinion leaders before discharging their duties.
The respondents were of the view that frequent requests for adjournment of case, frequent absence from court, poor prosecution skills/competence delay in proceedings, delays in preparing cases to court/in filing of cases, failure to provide information about the progress of case and failure to respond to victim requests for information are highest among the list of barriers affecting Police Prosecutors in the prosecution of criminal justice in Ghana.
- Conclusion and Recommendation
The study has yielded much data about Police Prosecutors’ strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. The study has revealed a wealth of information that can shape future policy on the role of Police Prosecutors and the measures required to ensure the service they provide to the people of Ghana is ‘fit for purpose.’ The main findings point to the need for change in the status of Police Prosecutors and there is a need for both the IGP and Attorney-General to redefine their mandate, strengthen capacity and enhance incentives while at the same time encouraging the eventual transition of their role to the establishment of an independent National Prosecutions Service.
In light of the survey’s findings, it is recommended that Police Prosecutors will need more training on legal provisions, operating procedures as well as emerging areas of the law. This training should be recurrent and continuing. The Office of the Attorney-General should give legal advice or opinion to the Police Prosecutors on time when such requests are referred to the Office. The Office of the Attorney-General must adhere to timelines in its Client Service Charter.