OBJECTIVE OF SECTION 232 ACJA 2015
The objective of Section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 is the procedure for trial on charges for certain offenses. So far there, is a deliberate effort under the ACJA 2015 to transform the criminal justice system to a system that prioritizes the needs of victims of crimes, witnesses, vulnerable persons, and society. Though it is at the discretion of the Honourable Court where it deems it necessary, it gives significant confidence and reliance on witness testimonies in prosecuting the crimes under the Act.
Section 232 of the Act lists a plethora of circumstances in which a witness should be protected and explicitly addresses the significance of witness protection.
The Witnesses are permitted to give evidence on camera including:
(a) Sexually related offenses,
(b) Terrorism offenses,
(c) Offences relating to Economic and Financial Crimes,
(d) Trafficking in Persons and related offenses, and
(e) any other offence in respect of which an Act of the National Assembly
permits the use of such protective measures or as the Judge may consider
appropriate in the circumstances.
Under this provision, the name and identity of the victims of such offenses or witnesses shall not be disclosed in any record or report of the proceedings and it shall be sufficient to designate the names of the victims or witnesses with a combination of alphabets. It further provides that where in any proceedings the Court determines it is necessary to protect the identity of the victim or a witness the Court may take any or all of the following measures:
(a) Receive evidence by video link.
(b) Permit the witness to be screened or masked.
(c) Receive written deposition of expert evidence.
(d) Any other measure that the Court considers appropriate in the circumstance.
Nevertheless, in a recent case, the Court construed Section 232 as inapplicable to justify the use of a mask to cover the face of a witness as this would interfere with the ability of the judge to have recourse to the witnesses’ demeanour to assess the credibility of the testimony. Curiously however the same Court reportedly allowed the witness to be screened from the view of members of the public other than the judge, the defendant, and the counsel.