The FCT Chief Judge, Justice Ishaq Bello, has called for uniformity in the sentencing of offenders with similar offences.
Bello made the call on Tuesday in Abuja, at a two-day Stakeholders’ Workshop on the Draft Sentencing Guidelines for FCT courts.
“One of the main objectives behind the setting up of these guidelines was to assist the courts in the exercise of sentencing powers.
“To achieve greater consistency and predictability in the sentences which they impose for similar offences.
“By providing clearer guidance on sentencing and on sentencing methodologies.
“In addition to attaining uniformity in sentencing, the guidelines will be accessible to interested members of the public wishing to know the basis on which court sentences are made by clear statements of principles.’’
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He said uniformity in sentencing of offenders in the FCT courts would prevent misconceptions by the public.
“As aptly captured by the learned judge, it is this lack of specific sentencing guidelines that has led to misconceptions fostered by the media, court users or mere observers.
“That courts sometimes impose unduly lenient sentences, exhibiting excessive pity and tenderness towards the accused with insufficient regard for the victim of the crime,’’ he said.
Bello said a judicial officer was to be impartial and independent, neither taking sides nor descending into the arena.
“At the end of a trial, however, the officer cannot remain neutral as a decision must be made one way or the other.
“In all cases, the decision must be justified as the product of the critical examination of (pieces of) evidence presented to form an opinion after the facts and applying the law,’’ he said.
According to him, sentencing must follow in criminal cases where the accused are found guilty.
He expressed optimism that the workshop would fill the void that could be described as the judiciary’s bane as regards sentencing.
Similarly, the Country Representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Mrs Cristina Albertin, said the workshop would ponder on seven different offences.
“The sentencing guidelines for seven different crimes including corruption and related offences.
“Offences against the person, offences against property, homicide related offences, offences against public order, offences against morality and offences against the state.
“We are very pleased that we can support the government of Nigeria in its efforts, in its drive to strengthen the rule of law, through a more effective, accessible, accountable, transparent and fair justice system.
“Thanks to two cooperation programmes that we have here in Nigeria one to strengthen the justice sector reforms and the other to support anti-corruption in Nigeria.’’