Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean says inadequate budgetary allocation is responsible for the unnecessary detention of inmates who are awaiting their day in court.
He said it is Criminal Court ‘E’ (Rape Court) that handles rape cases, explaining that of the total number of 836 inmates at least 350 are in detention, accused of rape for more than one year.
Cllr. Dean, speaking on a wide range of crime-related issues at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), yesterday said there are only two judges assigned to handle rape cases and that they use one court.
He said, “a trial requires that an accused is given his day in court and that he must bring his lawyers, a process which takes two to three months. The term of a court takes a certain number of days, which makes it difficult to try all the cases on the docket in a year.”
However, he said the court cannot let rape suspects and alleged armed robbers lose into the community unless they have received their respective trials in a court of law.
He however complained about the limited resources that are allocated to the criminal justice system, which makes it difficult to speedily try such cases.
Cllr. Dean said prolonged detention of suspects, particularly those accused of rape without being given the opportunity to defend themselves as provided by law, is not in favor of justice.
“Growing out of such concerns in the public, the system is not happy with detainees behind bars beyond the required time without their due process rights,” he said.
Cllr. Dean meanwhile said the justice system is doing all it can to address such issues. “We are aware of the law which says an accused need a speedy and fair trial, therefore, we will make the necessary efforts to review the list of detainees, specifically those detained for petty crimes,” Cllr. Dean said.
He said on April 19, Emmanuel Tarpeh, a resident of Johnsonville, outside Monrovia, reportedly went missing. However, a search by officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) has revealed that he was allegedly killed and buried in an unmarked grave.
Minister Dean confirmed that one suspect has been arrested and is in police custody.