Climate Change & Energy
Galamsey: Over 700 cases pending since 2022 as Attorney General laments slow pace of trials
Source: myjoyonline.com - May 2, 2023
Attorney-General, Godfred Yeboah Dame says the slow pace of criminal trials and grant of bail to illegal miners who return to sites is hampering the fight against ‘galamsey’.
He however says more than 700 persons are standing trial for various offences.
The talk regarding illegal mining is on the front burner following a report by Prof Kwabena Frimpong Boateng on alleged high-level government complicity stifling the fight to end the menace.
Mr. Dame has in a statement to the media been updating the nation on what his office has been doing to end the menace.
He indicated that a total of one hundred and nineteen (119) criminal cases involving the prosecution of about 727 individuals for offences connected with illegal mining have been pending at the High Court and some Circuit Courts around the country since January 2022.
Four regions – Eastern, Ashanti, Western and Greater-Accra Regions are the main regions in which the prosecution of persons engaged in illegal mining is being conducted. The Upper East Region and the Northern Regions have a few as well.
On the nationalities of these accused persons, they range from Ghanaians, Chinese, Nigerian, Nigerien, Burkinabe and other West African nationals.
The main offence is undertaking a mining operation without a licence and buying and selling minerals without a licence under the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act, 2019 (Act 995).
The A-G also highlighted some challenges faced during the process.
He says the grant of bail by the court to accused persons on very lenient conditions enables accused persons to easily meet them and abscond afterwards.
A number of the accused persons standing trial around the country have absconded after they were granted bail by the courts.
The A-G also says that the Judiciary ought to cooperate in this fight against galamsey by being cautious in the grant of bail and speeding up its processes to ensure swift prosecution and punishment of offenders.
He further points out what he describes as a lack of cooperation on the part of witnesses.
The prosecution sometimes finds it difficult to secure witnesses who initially give statements at the investigations stage to come to Court to testify.
The unwillingness to testify is attributable to the fact that witnesses in galamsey cases live in the same community as the accused persons and are often threatened and intimidated by them.
Godfred Dame says investigators fail to seize the illegal mining equipment used to commit the crime, and even when they do, they fail to bring the items to court.
This, he says, makes the case of the prosecution quite difficult. Another challenge is the failure of arresting officers to arrest suspects on the mining site itself, thereby making it difficult to link the suspects to the offence.
Absence or lack of court interpreters who can speak and interpret court proceedings in the language accused persons may want to use, as witnessed in the trial of a Vietnamese national in Accra, slows down court proceedings.
The AG says his Office is committed to the prosecution and punishment of suspected offenders following the conclusion of sound investigations.