Laywers, Residents Laud Non-Custodial Sentence Initiative


Lagos lawyers and residents on Tuesday reacted to the noncustodial sentence introduced by the Lagos State Government, describing it as a welcome development.

In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the respondents noted that noncustodial sentence could serve as a deterrent to offenders of the law.

Noncustodial sentence is a form of punishment which does not involve being kept in prison.

The state Chief Judge, Justice Inumidun Akande, had in a lecture on February 10 urged magistrates to use noncustodial sentence extensively to decongest the prisons in the state.

She said imprisonment had not served the purpose of either reforming offenders or adequately punishing them.

Mr. Kazeem Adebanjo, the Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ikorodu Branch, told NAN that noncustodial punishment was a better option to imprisonment.

He said the shame and ridicule associated with the punishment would deter offenders of the law.

“Noncustodial sentence is a good idea, but I think it should be used for minor offences only.

“An Ikorodu magistrate had ordered that a man should be flogged publicly for stealing.

“Since that incident, the man had not committed such offence again because he had learnt his lessons,” Adebanjo said.

He suggested that offenders could also be ordered by the court, under the noncustodial sentence, to carry a banner with derogatory inscriptions in the markets and public places.

“For instance, a banner with an inscription: ‘I am a thief, beware of me,’ is likely to demoralise the offender and bring shame to him,” the lawyer said.

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Adebanjo noted that prisons were no longer serving the purpose of reforming offenders or criminals.

He said: “The prisons lack the necessary facilities that can help reform the inmates.

“Instead of keeping such people in prison to learn more terrible things from hardened criminals, noncustodial sentence could be used, especially for minor offences.

According to him, the justice system is not only meant for punishment, but to reform and rehabilitate offenders.

Another lawyer, Mr. Adebowale Aromolaran, said the essence of sending an offender of the law to jail was to discourage him from committing crimes.

“But it appears that over time, this has not really served as a deterrent. Noncustodial sentence is worth exploring for minor offences, as against incarceration or imprisonment,” he said.

A banker in Surulere, Mrs. Helen Adesanya, however, suggested that noncustodial sentence should be extended to other categories of offenders such as public officials convicted of corruption.

“The shame and ridicule they will be exposed to will break and humiliate them.

“Anyone found guilty of corruption should be exposed to public ridicule. It may help in checking corruption,” she told NAN.

Also, Mr. Teju Adebola, a businessman, believed that noncustodial sentence should also include punishments mandatory community service such as sweeping in public places and markets.

“I do not really support sending a youth to prison for minor offences because by the time he comes out, he may be worse off”.

NAN recalls that a 39-year-old man was recently sentenced to two days of community service by an Ikorodu Magistrates’ Court for reckless driving and traffic obstruction.

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