How criminal proceedings are instituted
Criminal proceedings may be instituted against a person by presenting a Charge Sheet and/or an Indictment in the Chief Magistrates Court and/or High Court respectively.The person against whom criminal proceedings are instituted is referred to as the accused and the person who presents the charge sheet or indictment is referred to as the prosecutor.
A Charge Sheet is a document indicating the offence which the accused is said to have committed and the details surrounding the commission of that offence. It is filed only in the Chief Magistrate Courts.An Indictment performs the same role as the Charge sheet except that it is filed in the High Court.
For proceedings instituted in the High Court, it is mandatory to commit the accused to the High Court. The committal proceedings of the accused are conducted in the Chief Magistrates Court following which the accused is sent to the High Court for trial.At the trial, whether in the Chief Magistrates Court or High Court, the offence will be read to the accused after which he/she will be expected to respond (Take Plea)
The accused may plead guilty, not guilty or that he/she has been previously acquitted or pardoned for the offence he/she is being charged with.If the accused pleads guilty, then the judicial officer will record that plea and then proceed to sentence the accused in accordance with the law.
If the accused pleads not guilty, then court will proceed to hear the evidence from the State attorney who is referred to as the prosecutor.After hearing evidence from the prosecution, court will make a ruling as to whether the accused has a case to answer. If court finds that the accused has no case to answer, then he/she will be discharged. If court finds that the accused has a case to answer, then he/she will be required to give his/her defence by giving his/her testimony and/or calling witnesses to testify.
Court will then go ahead to give judgment after hearing the evidence from both sides. If the accused is found not guilty, then he/she will be acquitted. If the accused is found guilty, then court will proceed to hear the accused in mitigation of his sentence where he/she explains to court why court should lessen his sentence. Court will then proceed to give its sentence in accordance with the law.