It is the duty of the Magistrates court to read the charge to the offender, he/she will be asked whether he/she understands the charge and will not be required to admit or deny the offence, but instead to wait until their file is transferred to High court. It is in the High court where the admission or denial of a capital offence is supposed to be done.
The accused must be sent formally to High Court for trial. This process is called COMMITTAL.
This involves the State Attorney preparing a document called Committal papers that are read before the Magistrates court, sending the accused person to High Court to have their case heard.
Process of Committal
- At Magistrate’s Court the document is read to the accused person in the language they understand
- The copies are signed by the magistrate.
- A copy is given to the accused person, another remains on the court file and the third one is retained by the State Attorney.
- This process should take place within 6 months from the time the accused first appears before the Magistrate.
NOTE: Having been committed to High Court for trial, they now have to wait to be listed for the next convenient criminal session. Today, many capital offenders have found themselves overstaying in prison after they have been committed to High Court for trial. Some actually wait for over three years before their trial before the High court. This has been a very big challenge and many of the accused have wondered what the problem could be. Many times it could take more than six (6) months to have a session scheduled at the High Court. Some cases have even taken more than a year especially during this Covid-19 period and some of the reasons could include;
- Limited finances to schedule the court sessions
- Case backlog- Many cases in the queue and the earlier cases need to be handled first.
- Limited availability of judges willing to hold the sessions especially upcountry
- Closure of courts to curb the spread of the pandemic
The other challenge is that, in our criminal justice system many accused persons over stay on remand without being committed for several reasons. It’s important to note that when the case is concluded and the accused is found guilty, the sentence given is less the time they have spent on remand. There is always a miscarriage of justice in instances of delay on remand when the accused is finally acquitted or not found guilty. This is because most people due not pursue the compensation.