Leaders of political vigilante groups who fail to inform the Attorney General of the disbandment of their groups within a month of coming into force of a new vigilantism law face a five-year jail term.
That is what the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill 2019 states, but a private legal practitioner, Martin Kpebu says the punishment is too stringent.
Speaking on Joy FM at the weekend, the lawyer said although he supports President Akufo-Addo’s move to disband the groups – affiliated to the two major political parties in the country – a lesser punishment would suffice.
“It is too harsh,” he said, adding “we all understand that we have called a truce on vigilantism that is why we are saying they should be banned.
“So saying that failure to notify the minister should attract a minimum sentence of five years is draconian”, he intimated.
The Attorney General, Gloria Akufo, last Thursday laid before Parliament the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill 2019, seeking for it to be passed under a certificate of urgency.
Once passed into an Act, the Bill will see to the disbandment of political party vigilante groups and prohibit the formation of such.
Clause 2 of the Bill provides for the disbandment of political party vigilante groups. A leader of a political party vigilante group is required to inform the Minister, by notice in writing, of the formal disbandment of the political party vigilante group within one month of the coming into force of the Bill.
The Bill will be passed under a certificate of urgency when Parliament resumes from recess
The notice is required to include the date of formal disbandment and the names of the past and present members of the disbanded political party vigilante group.
Failure to comply with the requirements of the notice is an offence under the Bill punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than 15 years.
But Martin Kpedu did not see why that should be the case.
“People are taking millions of dollars from the public kitty and they are walking the streets free and then you say someone for failure to inform the minister that they have disbanded a group should go to jail for five years, what kind of law should this be.
“I am in support of the president, 300 per cent on this initiative, he has shown bold leadership but please we are on our knees,” he added.
At a time where the Criminal Procedure Code is under consideration for amendment for the introduction of the Community Sentence Bill, Mr Kpebu saw that portion of the Bill should be reviewed.
Options like having the offenders sweep streets or clear rubbish from a particular location for a certain period of time, in his view, would work better in the context.
Story: Today Correspondent