Illegal detention of persons (suspects) by the police would no longer be condoned, following the domestication of the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme (PDSS) in Delta State.
To this end, free legal services to vulnerable and indigent persons detained in police stations pending the completion of investigations was, yesterday, guaranteed by the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Isaiah Bozimo.
According to Bozimo, the PDS scheme corroborated earlier efforts of the state government in the efficient and effective administration of criminal justice in the state, especially unlawful detentions.
‘’The PDSS is a scheme whereby a practicing lawyer is stationed at a police station to interface with the detainees. Their function is to ensure that at that earlier stateg there is access to justice (for the detainees) and by extension, make sure that there is appropriate application for bail where the constitutional provisions for custody has elapsed.
‘’This is important because you need an early contact between those who are incarcerated and the legal system to ensure that we do not have these anomalies where an individual will be in police custody for months without access to justice or a lawyer.
Meanwhile, the state Solicitor-General and functioning Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Omamuzo Erebe, attributed the prolonged detention of detainees to the hostile attitude of the police towards lawyers, which, he said, would be addressed by the PDSS to ensure the constitutional rights of detainees.
‘’Lawyers will be deployed to police stations in an eight-hourly shift arrangement. This means that there must be a lawyer stationed at the police station whose duty it is to ensure that whenever a suspect comes in, there are provided with legal representation.
‘’The project is starting as a pilot scheme for the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and then reviewed over the years. The main source of lawyers will be members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) because we have a lot of them who are not fully engaged.
Addressing our correspondent, the NBA Asaba Branch Chairman, Augustine Eseagwu, said that the symposium sought to introduce the PDS scheme, which sought to cede lawyers to various police posts to advice detainees of their rights.
‘’This is a gradual realignment of how things were done before as against how things are supposed to be done now…. With the PDSS, the NBA is giving its mite to the enforcement of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL).
‘’This will take advantage of the numerous young lawyers and assign them to the different detention centers and police stations so that at every time when someone is arrested, there is a lawyer to advice the suspect free of charge. This is the first step in the administration of criminal justice.
Buttressing Eseagwu’s assertions, the Vice Chairman of NBA, Asaba Branch and the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the NBA Asaba Branch, Mrs. Juliet Ojefia, added that elements of the PDSS already featured at the magistrate level.
‘’After 24 hours, you are supposed to grant bail to a suspect. So, the duty of the magistrate is to ensure that suspects were not unduly held. The PDSS also helps to decongest correctional facilities, holding charge and awaiting-trial inmates.
‘’This scheme also helps the government to save a lot of money because if there are so many inmates in correctional facilities, so much money would be needed to feed them, care for them’’ Ojefia said, even as she stressed that the NBA would sufficiently educate the public on the existence of the PDSS.
The symposium, which was graced by stakeholders from the Law Officers Association of Nigeria (LOAN), International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and other associated bodies, featured delivered by Adebayo Akinlade and Omamuzo Erebe.