On July 22, 2022, Ghana amended its Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Act, 1960 (Criminal Procedure Code, Act 30), to add sections on plea bargaining. Before the president’s assent to the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Amendment Act, 2022 (Act 1079), the laws of Ghana allowed plea bargaining only in limited instances. Section 35 of the Courts Act, 1993 (Act 459) allowed for plea bargaining in cases relating to the commission of an offense that has caused economic loss, harm, or damage to a state agency. Similarly, the Narcotics Control Commission Act, 2020 (Act 1019) in section 47 allowed a special plea bargain for a courier of narcotics who cooperates during an investigation that leads to the arrest and charge of the principal.
The attorney general has announced that training programs will be arranged for judges, prosecutors in the Office of the Attorney General, the Ghana Police Service, the Ghana Prisons Service, and other legal professionals to guarantee the proper and effective execution of the law before its complete implementation.
Contents of the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Amendment Act, 2022 (Act 1079)
Under section 162A of Act 1079, a person charged with a criminal offense may negotiate a plea agreement with the attorney general or anyone authorized by the attorney general at any time before the court delivers its judgment. This agreement may involve reducing the charge to a lesser offense, withdrawing the charge, or reducing the prescribed punishment. The agreement may also include sentencing recommendations, compensation for the victim, or restitution by the accused with their consent. Before reaching a plea agreement, the prosecutor must inform the victim and allow them to make representations regarding the terms of the agreement. The prosecutor must also take into consideration factors such as the circumstances of the offense, the views of the investigator, the accused’s personal circumstances, previous convictions, community interest, and the interest of justice.
The law requires that a plea agreement be in writing and signed by all parties. It must include a statement that the accused person was informed of their rights before entering the agreement, the terms of the agreement, relevant facts of the case, any admission made by the accused person, the charges the accused person agrees to plead guilty to, the recommended sentence to the court, and any restitution or compensation to be paid by the accused person.
The prosecutor is also required to provide all necessary documents and materials to the accused person in order for them to prepare a defense or negotiate fairly. This includes the charge sheet, the prosecution’s case facts, statements made by the accused or others, relevant documents and recordings, and any exculpatory evidence in the prosecutor’s possession, regardless of whether they intend to use them at trial.
The law applies to persons charged with all criminal offenses except treason, high crime, rape, defilement, genocide, robbery, kidnapping, murder, attempted murder, abduction, piracy, hijacking, and offenses related to public elections.
In the case of a juvenile offender, a plea agreement may be accepted by the juvenile court only if the court has considered the social enquiry report, the parent or guardian consents and signs the plea agreement, and the agreement is in the best interest of the juvenile.
Prepared by Emmanuel Amoah, Law Library intern, under the supervision of Hanibal Goitom, Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division I
Law Library of Congress, March 6, 2023
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