HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ADMINISTRATION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE LAW
There is a new law (Administration of Criminal Justice Law) in Abuja, Lagos, Rivers, Delta, Edo and other States which protects the human rights of all Nigerians whenever anyone is arrested by security agencies.
Among other things, it is now compulsory that:
1. Anyone who is arrested must be given a telephone to contact one person of his choice. This is fundamental to the integrity of the investigation process. The arresting officer must be able to prove that he informed the suspect of his right to a telephone call. Any suspect kept incommunicado can thereafter question the entire process as lacking in legality.
2. No interview, interrogation or questioning should take place unless the suspect is represented by a Lawyer. So, the Police must henceforth not interview any suspect unless a lawyer is present.
3. The suspect has the right not to answer any question until after consulting with his lawyer, unless the suspect declines legal representation. Although the lawyer is not to interfere with the interview process, but he has a duty to advice the client on which questions to answer or which not to answer pursuant to the constitutional guarantee against self incrimination.
In capital offences, a lawyer must be present before interview. Breach of this mandatory requirement for a lawyer to be present could render the investigation process and its outcome challengeable.
4. Where the suspect wishes to confess to the crime, such confession must be in writing and also electronically recorded on CD. No confession obtained contrary to this will be admitted in evidence. So, there is now a burden on the Police and other security agencies to purchase recording/duplication equipments for use during interrogations. Copies of the CD must be disclosed to the defence. Otherwise, confessional statements will fail the admissibility tests on first strike.
5. Any person who is arrested can immediately approach a Magistrates Court for bail. The application can be by motion. Then the Magistrate will issue an order on the Police to produce the suspect in court and explain why such person should not be released on bail immediately.
In any event, the days of perpetual holding charge is no more. Every person brought before a Magistrate can be released on bail immediately. But in some jurisdictions, if the offence is a capital one, the Magistrate can remand the suspect in prison (on the application of the Prosecution) for 14 days only. After 14 days, the detention will be reviewed. The DIrector of Public Prosecution (DPP) will then have to appear in Court to justify why legal advice has not been released. Then the Court can also detain for another 14
days. If after that second 14 days, the legal advice is still not released, then the Court must grant bail. So, the formula is 14-14-14.
In other jurisdictions, the Prosecution must approach the High Court directly for remand. Then the 14-14-14 formula will kick in.
6. Every Magistrate in charge of District must visit the police station at least once a month to inspect the detainees list. The purpose of this obligation is to ensure that the Police do not unduly detain suspects.
So, beyond the judicial function of sitting in court, Magistrates are expected to visit police cells. Note that this is a legal and judicial obligation on the Magistrate. It is not a favour to detainees. So, failure of any Magistrate to comply could expose the said Magistrate to disciplinary action for dereliction of duty.
So, if the Magistrate in charge of your area does not perform his/her duty, you can either approach the Magistrate to ask that the situation should be remedied, or if there is no improvement, report the matter to the Administration of Justice Monitoring Committee, to the Presiding High Court Judge of the Judicial Division in your state.