As parts of efforts to make fair dispensation of justice available to citizenry, Justice Opeyemi Oke, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, on Wednesday signed in sentencing guidelines for the Magistrates and High Courts in the state.
Justice Oke signed in the sentencing guidelines at the inaugural meeting of the Criminal Justice Sector Reform Committee held in the conference room of the Ikeja High Court.
Mr Adeniji Kazeem, the Lagos State Attorney-General, judges, representatives of the Nigeria Police and members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) were at the meeting.
Others that were part of the meeting include law enforcement agencies, Nigerian Prisons Service as well as other stakeholders in the criminal justice system of Lagos.
Justice Oke, the chairman of the meeting, while applauding members of the Justice Sector Reform committee, said that the sentencing guidelines would create uniformity in sentencing in the courts.
She especially thanked members of the Sentencing Guidelines Sub-committee comprised of the Chairman, Justice Kudirat Jose, two Magistrates – Mrs Adefunmilola Demi-Ajayi and Mrs Yewande Aje-Afunwa — and staff of the Ministry of Justice — Dr Jide Martins and Mrs Bola Akinsete — for their hard work and dedication.
“The committee had finalised the sentencing guidelines which will be signed today as Practice Directions for use by all courts in the state.
“I will like to appreciate the members of the Sentencing Guidelines Committee for their hard work and attention to detail in putting together the guidelines which will facilitate uniformity, equity and objectivity in sentencing in Lagos State,” the Chief Judge said.
Oke said that the application of the guidelines would bring about similarities in sentences meted out by the courts for the same crimes.
“What has been occurring regularly is that a court will be giving a sentence that people find to be very harsh and difficult; terming the court wicked and harsh, while another court, lenient in sentencing an accused for the same type of offence, is termed sweet and kind.
“We need uniformity; we really have to monitor this. The sentencing guidelines will be applicable to the Magistrate Courts and the High Courts,” she said.
Oke noted that a new committee to be chaired by Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye had been set up to also create Practice Directions for the use of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State (ACJL) for the courts.
“This is for the purpose of making the law more explicit for Judges, Magistrates and Prosecutors.
“The new committee is enjoined to evaluate initiatives such as adopting Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms in criminal trials, increase use of plea bargaining to drastically reduce the number of inmates awaiting trial, frontloading of evidence and restorative justice,” Oke said.
The Chief Judge called for the collaboration and cooperation of stakeholders to take the Lagos State Judiciary to greater heights.
“The vision of the Lagos State Judiciary under the current administration includes to make speedy dispensation of justice a hallmark of Lagos State Judiciary and to improve on the reputation of Lagos State Judiciary as the best in Nigeria and Africa,” she said.