President Akufo Addo has expressed disappointment in what he believes are lenient sentences handed to persons found to be involved in illegal mining.
According to him, such sentences continue to be a source of worry as he believes that such culprits must be severely punished to serve as a good deterrent to others.
Speaking at the swearing-in of some 4 new Supreme Court Judges, at Jubilee House in Accra on Wednesday, the president said suspects caught in the act of vigilantism must also be severely punished.
The president urged the judges to consider the highest form of punishment whenever they are to exercise their discretion in handing sentences to suspects in any of such crimes which he believes has very severe consequences including the destruction of the country’s environment.
“It continues to be a source of worry, that persons caught in the act of destroying our environment and polluting our water bodies, the inheritance of our future generations because of the phenomenon of illegal mining, popularly referred to as galamsey, get away with lenient sentences. As it is at certain places, the discretion must be exercised for the upper end, for the maximum. The concept of deterrence must be an important art of sentencing policy, especially in areas of great social concern such as the fight against galamsey and vigilantism,” the president said.
The government’s joint police and military anti-illegal mining team, Operation Vanguard, has also had the cause to complain about what they described as “weak” sentences for persons they arrest.
The outgoing Commander of Operation Vanguard, Colonel William Agyapong in December 2017 said the sentences given by the judiciary to the suspects were not deterrent enough, and was a major disincentive to the fight against illegal mining in the country.
“Government has done a lot but we will need more. The kind of sentences and fines that come out of the arrest are not helpful. We know that the onus is on the prosecution to prove somebody guilty, but if you know what we go through and after everything the sentencing and the fines are not so deterrent…. If you fine somebody who is involved in small-scale illegal mining and you fine him GH¢1,000 or GH¢2,000, I think that it will not be deterrent enough. He will not see why he should not go back to the land. These are worrying issues that I hope that in due course, they are tackled by the appropriate authority,” he said.
The judges sworn in
The four Justices who were sworn in are; Justice Samuel Marful-Sau, Justice Agnes Dordzie, Justice Nene A. O. Amegatcher and an academic, Justice Prof Nii AshieKotey.
They were appointed in July 2018 to replace some long-serving justices who are retiring.
The former Chief Justice Georgina Wood retired on June 8, 2017 after about 43 years of service.
Justice William Atuguba, who is one of the longest-serving judges of the Supreme Court has also retired.