The Administration of Criminal Justice Laws (ACJLS) of different States of the Federation and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJL) have provided for new vistas that will improve the jurisprudence of the Justice Delivery System in Nigeria and stem the improper use of Investigative Powers.
Section 323 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Edo State 2016, though enacted in 2018,(which is impari materia with similar Sections in other ACJLs and the ACJA), provides inter alia and if I may paraphrase, that when an Investigating Officer of the Police or any Agency of Government charged with Law Enforcement profers a Charge against a Defendant in a Criminal Trial, which Charge is later found to be frivolous or the facts upon which the Charge is brought are found to be false, the Investigating Officer is liable to pay compensation to the Defendant who is now treated as a victim for the pain and damage suffered by him due to the indiscretion of the Investigating Officer.
The Section also provides that if the Officer fails, refuses and/or neglect to pay the compensation that enures due to his indiscretion after an Order of Court that he should pay the victim the compensation, the Officer shall be liable to be sent to prison, until he purges himself of the now contempt of Court by paying the Court Ordered Compensation.
This Provision is quite apposite, as it now precludes the abuse of Investigating Powers and brings any improper use of Investigating Powers under Judicial Review and possible Judicial Hammer.
The fact alone that an improper Investigation can lead to liability, is a great red flag that will put the Investigating Authorities on their toes. The awareness of this new provision, however, is quite obscure even among Counsel.
It is my submission that a Court which comes to a finding of facts after trial, that Investigating Officers have abused their Powers should even suo moto invoke the Section of the ACJL or the ACJA that provides for compensation for victims and give a proportionate penalty, during its Judgement.
It may, however, be the duty of Counsel to bring this Section to the attention of the Judge during the final written address and also his duty to get the victim during his Examination-In -Chief to state facts that will allow the Judge arrive at the irrefutable conclusion that the Investigating Officers have abused their investigating powers. It is also my submission that liabilities flowing therefrom from the abuse of Investigating Powers can accrue against every member of the Investigating team and even the supervisory officer that upheld their recommendations to proceed with an arraignment of an innocent victim.
I also submit further that should the Judge gloss over the issue in his Judgment and refuses to make the proper order, the victim or his Counsel can by an Application or an Originating summons approach the Court to get the compensation for the victim.
The Courts should, however, have the courage to ensure retributive justice by slamming Orders to pay compensation to victims on erring Investigating Officers and their Supervisors to serve as a deterrence to others and interrogate the seeming impunity, that currently pervades the process.
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