Chief Justice of Lagos State frees 233 pretrial detainees

Justice Ayotunde Phillips said it is her statutory duty to reduce overcrowding.

The Nigerian Tribune reports that the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Ayotunde Phillips, during her visit to the Kirikiri Maximum and Medium Prisons, freed 233 inmates, who were on awaiting trial list. Some had spent up to 12 years in prison.

The prison visits were the first since she assumed office in June. furher such visits are planned. One hundred and thirty inmates were released from prison custody at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prisons while the remaining 103, were from the Kirikiri Medium Security Prisons.

Justice Phillips, while granting freedom to the inmates, stated that it was in line with her statutory duty to decongest the prison, saying she did so  “in pursuant of the powers conferred on me under Section 1 (1) of the Criminal Justice Release from Custody Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2007.”

She stated that, “there is a saying in the legal circle that it is better for 10 guilty persons to be free than for one innocent person to be incarcerated.

“We have gone through the list of those recommended for release. So for those of you who qualify to be released, you are very lucky that your names came up."  She advised the inmates who regained their freedom to change for the better and ensure that they contribute their to society.“Go and sin no more and I must not see you here again,”she said.

Justice Phillips referred to the outcry over prison congestion and said that all those who qualified under the new criminal administration law would be granted freedom.

In his welcome remarks, the Deputy Comptroller of Prisons of Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Mr Olu Tinuoye, disclosed that it was unusual for chief judges in Lagos State to visit the prison.

“By this visit, a lot of them expect freedom. It is a matter of regret that Judges in the state have not been visiting the prison regularly. This is why their expectation is very high” he said.

Tinuoye added that a lot of the inmates awaiting trial have not found life easy behind the bars especially those in custody for petty offences.

Tinuoye added that the inmates have accepted their fates even as he asked for compensation for the freed men.

He also urged officials of the cCmmittee for the Prerogative of Mercy to occasionally visit the prison and not rely on papers submitted to it by prison officials.

His counterpart at the Medium Security Prison, Mr. Tunde Ladipo commended the efforts of the Lagos state government in taking care of the prisons.

He however pleaded with government for the release of more awaiting trial inmates in order to reduce the congestion in the prison.

Ladipo said that it was the first time a sitting CJ was visiting the prison, adding that the place is no doubt congested.

“This place is no doubt congested, however we want to be careful not to release those who we should not release”

At the maximum security prison, the Chief Judge was informed that they have a capacity of 1056 inmates but presently had 763 inmates while the medium security prison had 2502 inmates out of whom 124 were already convicted while 2378 were awaiting trial.

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