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Monday, 20 May 2013

Search for Better Prosecution

Government has now operationalised the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) into a National Prosecution Authority (NPA). All criminal prosecution functions would now be vested in the NPA as set out in under the National Prosecution Authority Act, 2010.

Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba recently appointed the the NPA Board with an impossible mandate of achieving “90 per cent court success rate”. The Board will be chaired by DPP Muntembo Nchito.

Prior to the NPA Act, the DPP used prosecutors from other law enforcement agencies to prosecute criminal cases in subordinate courts at district level. Now the NPA will establish the office of the District Attorney in all the districts in order make prosecution of cases more efficient and improve standards. This is expected to create over 1700 jobs. There are also promises of more legal aid in criminal cases. 
The development is long overdue and the Minister is to be commended for progressing this forward. The implantation will now increase prosecution capacity substantially. The DPP currently only exists in only five districts namely Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe, Livingstone and Kitwe. No wonder public awareness of the DPP's office is very low. The NPA will hopefully change that.

But this surely is only a small beginning in reforming the NPA. More reforms are desperately needed. Top among them is to change the way we appoint the DPP. The office lacks prosecutorial independence. Legislation should be put in place that more clearly guarantees it.

In particular, the Judicial Service Commission should recommend a person for the position of DPP, who is then appointed by the President / Justice Minister. Suitable individuals should be invited to apply for the position and then be selected on merit after the process of selection that includes formal interviews.

Separately, In order to enhance accountability and transparency in the decisions made by the DPP, legislation should be reviewed to ensure that reasons for entering a nolle prosequi are made public. We are tired of the current practice. It is shameful and not fit for a modern state.

And of course rampant corruption in prosecution is a challenge (and indeed in among law enforcement agents and the judiciary in general). As for legal aid - well there's no legal aid currently to talk about and therefore we really have no justice in this country. I shall say more on that in the future.

Copyright © Zambian Economist 2013

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