Director of Public Prosecutions, Justice Jane Frances Abodo, has launched the “Decision to Charge Guidelines 2023,” a comprehensive framework aimed at assisting prosecutors in making informed decisions regarding the charges brought against accused persons.
The guidelines not only delineate the essential functions and responsibilities of prosecutors concerning the initiation of charges and the management of criminal proceedings but also emphasize the significance of these roles.
Abodo, speaking during the launch, underscored the critical role of prosecutors as gatekeepers to the criminal justice system. She emphasized that the decision to charge and prosecute carries profound implications, affecting suspects, victims, witnesses, and the community at large.
The introduction of the guidelines comes at a time when the Office of the DPP has faced occasional criticism for rushing to prefer charges against individuals. This has led to instances where suspects are either acquitted by the courts due to insufficient evidence or where the DPP withdraws charges after individuals have spent years in detention.
Abodo emphasized the importance of a thorough review of case files before authorizing charges and the need for expedited resolution of issues when cases are referred back to the police to prevent unnecessary delays or dismissals.
The Decision to Charge Guidelines 2023 provides comprehensive information on the charging process, the requisite materials before charges can be filed, the standards and threshold tests to be met prior to preferring charges, case types requiring prosecutorial involvement in investigations, and the framework for granting bail.
These guidelines also cover aspects of post-case management, guidance on withdrawing cases, out-of-court case disposition, the transition from manual case management to electronic filing processes, diversion practices, and witness protection management, among others. According to Abodo, the guidelines have been updated to address the evolving landscape of criminal activities in the digital era, noting that the previous guidelines issued in 2014 no longer suffice.
George William Byansi, the Deputy DPP, emphasized the extensive research, consultation, and collaboration involved in developing the guidelines. He noted that while the constitution provides prosecutors with broad guidelines, the newly introduced guidelines offer a more detailed and community-oriented approach to decision-making.
The development of these guidelines was led by a 30-member Task Force of State Attorneys, with former Deputy DPP Charles Olem Ogwal at the helm. The process received support from international organizations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
The launch was attended by various State Attorneys from the DPP’s office, who will subsequently engage in discussions regarding the implementation and roadmap for the effective utilization of these guidelines. Their feedback will contribute to the continuous improvement of prosecutorial practices and the enhancement of the criminal justice system.
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