The Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) was first passed in Lagos State in 2007 and an amended version passed in 2011. The law is an instrument that protects the rights of persons that come into contact with the justice system seeking to ensure that all are treated equally. It also provides clear guidance for justice service providers on what is expected of them in the discharge of their duties. However, application of the Law has been slow with many justice service providers continuing to apply the old system.
J4A provided grants to two civil society organisations – Access to Justice (A2J) and Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) to engage with the justice sector to raise knowledge of the law and to encourage the application of its provisions.
Activities under the grants were completed in 2015, and in April 2016 an evaluation of the results was carried out. Whilst full implementation of the law is still some distance away, not least because of the budgetary implications of the law, good progress has been made in the application of the key provisions. Magistrates have embraced their new responsibilities to ensure that awaiting trial persons are not kept in custody for extended periods awaiting trial and many magistrates are exercising their power to summons the Commissioner of Police or the Director of Public Prosecutions to explain delays. Detainees are more likely to be treated correctly at the time of their arrest and some systems are in place for recording confessional statements. Opportunities to pass sentences other than prison are slowly gaining traction in the magistrate’s courts with a gradual increase in the number of community service orders.
The evaluation has shown that re-organising the administration of criminal justice is a huge undertaking and inevitably takes a long time to successfully complete. Lagos is making good progress and with the continued engagement of the Ministry, Judiciary, Police the opportunity for all citizens to have equal access to fair delivery of justice are improving each day.