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Lagos magistrates may get autonomous power for offenders

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Magistrate in Lagos may soon begin to determine fate of minor offenders under detention should amendment of Criminal Justice law administration before the State House of Assembly is approved and assented to by the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

To determine minor offenders fate, the magistrate would be conducting monthly inspection tour of Nigerian police stations or other places of detention within their jurisdiction and grant bail to offenders earlier denied.

The proposal to grant magistrate power to set minor offenders free was contained in the bill currently been debated by lawmakers on floor of the house which seek to amend Criminal Justice Law, Cap A3, Laws of Lagos State, 2015.

These were revealed during a one-day public hearing on a bill to amend criminal justice administration organised by the House Committee On Judiciary, Human Rights, Public Petitions and Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) at the Lagos assembly pavilion, Ikeja.

Giving an overview of the bill on Thursday, Majority Leader of the House,  Sanai Agunbiade, said that the new innovations and other amendments were introduced into the bill to strengthen administration of criminal justice law of the state.

In the bill, Agunbiade disclosed that Section 9 states that a person under police detention should be given reasonable facilities for obtaining legal advice, bail or afforded the liberty to make arrangements for his defence or release from custody.

On the right of suspects, the lawmaker hinted that section 7 of the bill prevents the law enforcement agencies from arresting Lagosians merely on a civil wrong or breach of contract as well as barred the police from parading any suspect before the media.

According to him, section 76 of the bill states that prosecutor may receive and consider a plea bargain from a defendant charged with an offence either directly or on behalf of the defendant, and that he may offer a plea bargain to a defendant charged with an offence.

He said: “The bill in section 181 (b) reads that a witness who refuses to attend court proceedings shall be liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding N20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2months”.

Agunbiade added that the bill granted court permission to strike out any case that prosecutor failed to appear and discharge the defendant unless it has  received a reasonable excuse from the prosecution for the non-appearance of the witness.

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