New guidelines to smoothen prosecution

Source: New guidelines to smoothen prosecution | Herald (Top Stories)

Prosecutor-General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi

Investigations Editor

The Prosecutor General, Mr Kumbirai Hodzi, has issued new prosecutorial guidelines specifying the roles and powers of a prosecutor, with a view to promote inter-agency coordination and end confusion that has resulted in investigating arms erroneously assuming the function of deciding who should be sent to court on criminal charges.

The new guidelines reiterate the PG’s role in directing investigations and ensuring there is coordination in the investigation and prosecution of cases.

So bad was the situation that, for example, the police having arrested a suspect, would be shocked to realise that another investigating arm would have arrested witnesses in the initial case, reducing prosecution of high profile cases to a circus.

Although it has always been law that the PG is the sole authority with exclusive powers to decide on who should be prosecuted, some investigating arms would just take suspects to court and in some cases, prosecutors would accept the cases due to fear of the unknown.

In some cases, weak dockets that lack evidence, would find their way in court while some cases in which evidence against the suspects was overwhelming, would never set foot in court.

In other cases, junior prosecutors were reportedly put under pressure to refer a case to trial after threats of arrest from some investigating arms, resulting in undeserving cases being prosecuted.

As a way of bringing sanity and ensuring quality prosecution of deserving cases, Mr Hodzi issued new guidelines which will soon be gazetted for use by prosecutors and law officers across the country.

The new guidelines state that the PG should direct investigations and work closely with the investigating arms to ensure coordination and effective prosecution of cases.

“Prosecutors are mandated to advise the police and investigators about possible reasonable lines of inquiry, evidential requirements, pre-charge procedures, disclosure management and the overall investigation strategy.

“Such advice assists the police and Investigators to complete investigations within a reasonable period of time and to build the most effective prosecution case,” reads the document.

Prosecutors may consult the investigators when considering changing charges or stopping the case but the final decision on whether or not the case should go ahead, rests with the prosecutor.

Where there is no sufficient evidence, the NPA should not be afraid to decline prosecution.

“Prosecutors as a preliminary stage, should identify and where possible seek to rectify the evidential weaknesses but, subjected to the two-stage test explained in these guidelines. They should quickly stop cases which do not meet the evidential stage of the Full Prosecution Test (the first test) and which cannot be strengthened by further investigation or where Public Interests clearly do not require a prosecution,” reads the guidelines.

Mr Hodzi reiterated that the NPA was the sole constitutionally mandated office responsible for prosecutions.

“The NPA is the sole constitutionally mandated authority that is responsible for all public prosecutions in the Republic of Zimbabwe. The Prosecutor General operates independently and is not subject to any other authority,” reads the guidelines.

The new guidelines emphasise the independence of the prosecuting authority.

“Prosecutors shall therefore, uphold and exemplify prosecutorial independence in both its individual and institutional aspects. Prosecutors are independent from persons or agencies that are not part of the prosecution decision making process. 

“The prosecutorial independence of the PG is central to the rule of law. The PG is responsible for applying the criminal law, formulating prosecutorial policy and giving strategic guidance to public prosecutors to whom various powers are delegated,” reads part of the document.

However, prosecutors should perform their duties impartially.

“The decision to prosecute or to decline to do so, is a most serious determination that affects the rights of suspects, complainants and the community and is only taken with the most utmost care.

“To this end, a prosecutor must act fairly and objectively assist the requirements of justice.

“Prosecutors work in an adversarial and accusatorial litigation system, however, it is still their sacred duty to bring offenders to justice and to make sure that the right person is prosecuted for the right offence.

“Prosecutorial casework decisions should therefore be taken impartially and with integrity to help secure justice for all . . . ” 

According to the guidelines, prosecutors must not act in a partisan manner, further the interest of any political party or cause, prejudice the lawful interests of any political party.

Prosecutors, according to the guidelines, must at all times, act in the interests of justice and not solely for the purpose of obtaining a conviction.

They should be even handed in their approach to every case, and have a duty to protect the rights of suspects while providing the best possible service to complainants and society at large.

In applying the new guidelines, prosecutors must ensure that each case is considered on its merits.

COMMENTS

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    Mukanya 2 months ago

    “The NPA is the sole constitutionally mandated authority that is responsible for all public prosecutions in the Republic of Zimbabwe. The Prosecutor General operates independently and is not subject to any other authority,” reads the guidelines.

    How far true is that quoted statement….!