The Ghana Bar Association has called for a lessening of the current sanctions for not wearing face masks.
In a statement, the association said the current punishments are severe and “may culminate in the imposition of custodial sentences.”
GBA complained that prisons are already congested and “may shortly be teeming with convicts who are unable to pay fines imposed by courts.”
The sanctions for not wearing face masks are contained in a new Executive Instrument (E.I. 164).
People who fail to wear face masks in public risk a prison sentence of four to 10 years or a fine ranging GHS12,000 to GHS60,000, or both.
The association has instead proposed a fine of “not less than ten penalty units and not more than one hundred and fifty penalty units and not more than one month and not more than two years.”
This would mean fines would range from GHS120 to GHS1,800.
“It is our firm belief that our proposals are sufficiently punitive and will deter people from violating the restrictions imposed by virtue of the law,” the statement concluded.
The government maintains that the current sanctions for not wearing face masks are necessary.
Speaking on the matter, the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said: “Sometimes, if the sanctions are not deterring enough, we will not get the level of compulsion we are looking for.”
“One of the reasons for prescribing sanctions on various pieces of legislation is so that they become a deterrent to other people.”
About the new E.I.
The new E.I. makes it mandatory for people to wear face masks, face shields or any other face covering that covers his or her nose and mouth completely when the person is in public or leaving or returning to his place of abode.
Police are also given authority to make random checks to ensure compliance.
According to paragraph 4(2) of E.I. 164, any person who fails to comply with the mandatory wearing of nose masks shall be punished in accordance with Section 6 of Act 1012.
Per Section 6 of Act 1012, “a person who fails to comply with the restrictions imposed under the Executive Instrument issued under subsection 1 of Section 2 commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than 1,000 penalty unit (GHS12,000) and not more than 5,000 penalty units (GHS 60,000) or to a term of imprisonment not less than four years and not more than 10 years or to both.”