The Awutu Senya Police Commander, Superintendent Joshua Semenyo has cautioned police officers who engage in extorting money from suspects before bailing them to desist from that action.
According to Superintendent Semenyo, some police officers take advantage of suspects who desperately want to be bailed and charge them illegally to pay money before they’re released from Police cell.
He was responding to concerns from vagrants during a sensitisation program on their rights and responsibilities on Thursday, July 8, 2021.
The programme started with introductory video on the deplorable conditions of Ghana’s prisons, presentation on by-laws, education on rights and responsibilities and concerns from participants.
The vagrants while soliciting their opinion asked whether bail was free.
It is an open knowledge that there was a charge associated with securing bail for a suspect.
But the Police Commander said “it is not written anywhere that you’re going to pay somebody to bail a suspect. But I have been telling people that you call for it. The person should be here at most 48 hours, then they put the person before court, but you don’t want your brother to be there even for two hours.
“In the process of putting pressure on the police man by begging, he knows you have become vulnerable and some will ask for bribe before releasing the suspect, which is uncalled for,” Superintendent Joshua Semenyo explained.
He used the opportunity to caution police officers who engage in this illegality.
“Don’t keep somebody in cell and say bring money before you release the person,” he said while adding that he goes on a routine check up at his station to make sure suspects are not kept beyond 48 hours as well as no exchange of money between suspects and officers in charge.
The Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws workshop which was organised by the Crime Check Foundation in collaboration with the Awutu Senya Municipal Assembly was funded by the Open Soceity Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Crime Check Foundation, Ibrahim Oppong-Kwarteng advised parties to resort to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to prevent jailing people unnecessarily over petty issues which can be resolved through dialogue.
Bail by law is free and must be devoid of all fees and charges but from the interviews, it is clear that a lot more public education must be put in place to ensure that the law is clearly understood and upheld in all situations and circumstances across the country.
It is the temporary release of a suspect from Police custody pending further investigations or court appearance.
The CCF and OSIWA through the project are proposing fairness in the application of the laws and therefore pushing for non-custodial form of sentencing or community service to decongest Ghana’s choked prisons while educating the vigrants on their rights and responsibilities.
The Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws Advocacy is a one-year project which will be rolled out in 12 metropolitan assemblies in three regions: Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Central.
It will sensitize 1200 vagrants about their rights and responsibilities to prevent any misunderstandings with the assemblies.
Monitoring and Evaluation
To monitor the progress and effectiveness of the Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws project, a contact centre will be created after the sensitization to address the concerns of vagrants at the partnering organization, Crime Check Foundation.
The project will run from May 2021 to May 2022.
By Sefakor Fekpe