Lawyer Calls for Acquital of 40 Convicts

A LUSAKA lawyer has submitted that the State should acquit 40 convicts at Mukobeko Maximum Prison in Kabwe for delaying to hear their appeal cases because case records have gone missing.

Henry Chanda said the 40 convicts, on death row, must be acquitted and compensated because their files had gone missing under the custody of the court, which could also be an indication that some court officials were involved in the disappearance of the documents.

The submission was made to the Legal and Justice Reforms Commission, sitting in Lusaka yesterday.

Mr Chanda said the 40 had spent 10 to 15 years in prison without the Supreme Court hearing their appeal cases and that according to the law, the prisoners should be acquitted and compensated by the State.

“I want to recommend that the Judiciary should come up with a system of distributing court proceedings to all parties involved immediately after each court hearing to avoid missing court records. The Court reporters should type the proceedings and give copies to the court, litigants and the State,” Mr Chanda said.

He said the disappearance of case records deprived the convicts of the right to defend themselves properly because court records were the only weapons they had to argue their case.

Human rights activist Brebner Changala told the Frederick Chomba-led Commission that some of the powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should be revoked, especially on entering a nolle prosequi which was timeless.

He submitted that the nolle prosequi, when entered, should have a time frame.

Mr Changala said magistrates and judges should also stop the unnecessary adjournments of cases for lengthy periods of time.

Chrispin Sichone also submitted that the civil service legislation that stipulated that those facing criminal offences be placed on half salary until the matter was disposed off should be abolished.

Dr Sichone said the legislation should be abolished because it was in conflict with the Constitution which says all persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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