In exercise of her constitutional powers, the Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Oluwafumilayo Atilade, on Tuesday released 20 inmates of Ikoyi Prisons awaiting trial.
Atilade, who made the pronouncement at a mini-court session conducted at the prisons, told the inmates:“Go and sin no more”. The gesture was part of activities marking the 2016/2017 legal year.
She said:“Having been informed by the prison officials of the offences for which you have been in prison for a period longer than three months, I pronounce, pursuant to the provisions of Sections 1(1) of the Criminal Justice (Release from Custody) Act, 2007 as well as Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution, you are all hereby released from custody this 27th day of September, 2016.
“This is without prejudice to any charge that may be preferred against you at a later date; I, therefore, enjoin you to turn a new leaf and go and sin no more.”
Noting that every individual deserves a second chance to be able to lead normal lives as productive members of the society, Atilade added:”It is better for 10 guilty persons to go scot free than for one innocent person to suffer being punished unjustly.”
Atilade recalled that since she took over, a total of 2,065 inmates had been released from custody.
She said her prison visit was backed up by the Criminal Justice Release from Custody Act, Laws of the Federation.
“I have taken it as one of the key pillars in my administration to regularly conduct this visit with a view to granting amnesty to eligible and deserving inmates.
“It is a notorious fact that the number of awaiting trial inmates far exceeds those of convicted inmates, and for this reason, my administration has established a Prison Decongestion Committee to set up criteria for the release of inmates.”
She said the inmates were among the 104 of those whose criminal cases have been ongoing from nine months up to four years.
The Lagos CJ also noted that a number of factors had contributed to the large number of inmates awaiting trial in the various prisons.
The factors included, police investigation, time lag between the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the actual filing of cases in court.
Atilade added that occasional delays such as transportation of inmates to court and lack of legal representation were among factors responsible for the large number of awaiting-trial inmates.
She reiterated her administrations’ commitment to ensuring that justice prevailed in the state.