Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Ten percent of criminal cases thrown out as suspects, witnesses flee

Prosecutors are forced to close about ten percent of investigated and viable criminal cases after either suspects or witnesses flee and efforts to curtail the trend have not fared well, the Minister of Justice Berhan Hailu said on Tuesday.
The Justice Ministry says the nonappearance of suspects and witnesses is one of the major hindrances to their success rate. 
During the 2010/11 budget year’s first five months, 4.47 percent of viable criminal cases state prosecutors took have been closed because witnesses could not be found. Another 5.7 percent of cases were lost before justices got a chance to see them because suspects fled. Subsequently a total of more than 10 percent criminal offenses were closed, according to the performance report the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) submitted to parliament.
Justice Minister Berhan, who presented the report to the House of Peoples’ Representatives on Tuesday, says his ministry wants to cut the number of such cases in half and to reduce them to below five percent of overall criminal cases.
“The nonattendance of witnesses and suspects has led to a total of 9.34 percent cases being closed,” Berhan told MPs about this year performance admitting that the target to bring down such cases below five percent has not been achieved.
The performance report covered the first five months in July-December of the budget year and a comparison was made to the same period of the pervious budget year.
While it loses a significant number of cases because of nonattendance, MoJ says it is doing well when it comes to conviction rate targets.
MoJ says most serious crimes such as terrorism and attacks on the constitutional order have been investigated in full and the performance is 100 percent. MoJ targeted a 95 percent conviction rates for such cases.
Prosecutors’ performance has been at a 77.2 percent success rate on terrorism and related cases in ordinary court procedures. The conviction rate has been above 83 percent on accelerated court procedures that usually give faster verdicts and sentencing, the MoJ report reads.
On lighter offense cases such as misdemeanor and summary offenses, the conviction rate has been 73.5 percent while it is close to 92 percent on accelerated court procedures.
Internationally Japan has an outstanding conviction rate; it exceeds 99 percent. This has been attributed to low prosecutorial budgets impelling understaffed prosecutors to present judges with only the most obviously guilty defendants.
In the United States’ federal court system, the conviction rose from approximately 75 percent to approximately 85 percent between 1972 and 1992. According to the BBC, prosecutors have a success rate of 80 percent in the Crown Court of England and Wales.