The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, has charged sentencing judges to strike balance and fairness while imposing sentences.
The AGF condemned the act as well as arresting and locking minor offenders with hardened criminals.
The situation according to him has led to minors becoming unreformed, saying it must stop.
The AGF made the call on Monday at the opening of a two day workshop on the implementation of non- custodial measures and sentencing guidelines under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Represented by the Director of Administration of Criminal Justice and Reforms Department/Correctional Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs leticia Ayoola-Daniels,
Fagbemi stated that the purpose of non-custodial measures is to find effective alternatives to imprisonment for offenders in accordance with the current global shift in punishing convicts with alternatives to prison terms.
He added that the use of non custodial measure will facilitate reduction in correctional facilities to the barest minimum in line with section 470(2)(c) of the Administration of Criminal Justice.
He said, “Sentencing is a core judicial function in criminal justice. In discharging that function, the sentencing Judge must strive to achieve the right balance between imposing a merited sentence in the case at hand, while maintaining a broad level of consistency with other cases so that sentencing at a systematic level is fair. Sentencing guidelines and frameworks are best understood as means to enable the sentencing court to strike that sometimes elusive balance.
“Today we have seen countless cases where defendants are arrested for minor offences and locked up in prisons adding to the population of awaiting trial inmates. These offenders remanded with hardened criminals end up being initiated into a life of crime instead of been reformed.
“The aim of this workshop is to share knowledge on the effective use of these instruments that will lead to a decrease in arbitrary punishments, uniformity in punishments, and utilization of alternatives to imprisonment to decrease the population of awaiting trial inmates.”
While charging participants on needs to prioritise effective implementation of the criminal justice Act for maximum effect, the AGF added: “In order to facilitate the application and effective use of the non-custodial sentencing, the legal and regulatory framework must be effectively implemented.
“The Success of any system of criminal justice administration depends on the level of effective implementation of the guidelines by the agencies involved.
“The aim is to also give the judges and magistrates much latitude and discretion to award befitting and purposeful punishment to convicts aside the punishment suggested by the statute creating the offence.
“It is our hope that the Non custodial measures and sentencing guidelines will be more operational and effectively implemented in order to achieve the objectives and purposes of the reforms in the criminal sector.”
The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) was enacted and came into force on May 13, 2015.
The Act among other things placed premium on non-custodial sentences in line with ACJA 2015.