Establishing a criminal record bulletin

Establishing a criminal record bulletin:

The process

The procedure to establish a criminal record bulletin is contained in the Criminal Procedure Code, Book II Part IV, Sections 573 to 583. Bulletin No.3 is the most requested and the only one among the 3 bulletins which is delivered directly to the person concerned. It mentions only sentences of loss of liberty not expunged by amnesty or rehabilitation.

The criminal record of any individual in Cameroon is registered at 2 places: the sub divisional index card established at the Registry of the Court of First Instance, for persons born within the jurisdiction of the said court, and the central index card established at the Ministry of Justice. The latter centralises the criminal records of persons of Cameroonian or foreign nationality born abroad, persons of foreign nationality born in Cameroon whose birth has not been declared at the Cameroonian Civil Status Registry and who reside in Cameroon, and persons of Cameroonian or foreign nationality whose place of birth is unknown or whose nationality is doubtful. The criminal record of each person shall contain as many index cards as there are convictions as well as separate proceedings or preventive measures. Established in 5 copies, 2 are forwarded to the Registry of the Court of First Instance of the place of birth where a criminal record shall be opened at his/her birth. 2 others shall be forwarded to the central criminal record office logded at the Ministry of Justice-Department for Criminal Matters and Pardon, and the last

copy shall be kept in the case file at the Registry of the Court of place of birth. Whenever a court hands down a sentence or a preventive measure against a person, the Registrar-in-Chief of the Court transcribes the judgment into the criminal record index card. This card carries mentions about the sentences and preventive measures pronounced against a person by national or foreign courts, sentences for simple offences, special measures applied following sections 46, 48 and 49 of the Penal Code about recognizance. Besides, this card also carries the mention “wanted” if the convict is on the run, judgements declaring bankruptcy, pardon or rehabilitation orders. These cards constitute what is known as the criminal record of an individual.

Procedure and cost of a B3

In order to obtain an authentic and certified copy of an extract of a criminal record, litigants and applicants should make sure they follow the appropriate processes stipulated by Law. According to the applicable legislation, only the person concerned or the bearer of the criminal record can request for a Bulletin No.3. In case it is a minor or a person under tutorship that needs it, his/her guardian shall apply. Generally, the B3 is used in administrative processes like creation of a company, competitive entrance examinations, to demand nationality and to be able to exercise certain legal or constitutional duties. The criminal record and the B3 specifically is thus a proof of the good morals or criminal background of a person that attests if he/she is trustworthy or not. Its validity is 3 months even though some critics argue that it should be reduced to a month because many things can happen in the criminal life of an individual in 3 months. However, the Law has not established any time restraint propably due to the volatile notion of time in legal matters. Consequently, when an individual needs a B3, he/she goes to the Court of First Instance of his/her place of birth and writes an application to request for it. In order to show proof of identity, a photocopy of the birth certificate or of the National Identity Card is required. In order to attest to the authenticity of these 2 documents, 2 fiscal stamps worth FCFA 1.000 each shall be affixed on the documents.

Consequently, the total cost of the issuance of an extract of the criminal record is FCFA 2.000. Thereafter, the request shall be deposited at the Registry of the Court concerned for search purposes. The Registrar will check if any condemnation or sentence laid on a person and worth mentioning on a B3 has been noted. He will then fill the form and mention the necessary information on the document. The document will be signed by both the Registrar-in-Chief and the State Counsel of the Court. Generally, the standard time for a B3 to be established is 24 hours. Moreover, litigants can also be delivered a B3 at the Ministry of Justice in Yaounde where the central record index is logded. Responsible for the follow up of criminal matters, it is the Director for Criminal Matters and Pardon that is delegated to sign extracts of the criminal records on behalf of the Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals. The Sub-Department for the Central Criminal Record was created in the Ministry of Justice to take charge of this very important aspect of the legal system. Here, a written application adressed to the Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals is deposited at the department in charge of treatment. After search in the Central Record files, extract of the file of the person concerned is mentioned on the Bulletin. The total cost of issuance of the bulletin is FCFA 2.000 for fiscal fees. Besides, persons of Cameroonian or foreign nationality, born abroad, persons of foreign nationality born in Cameroon whose birth has not been declared at the Cameroonian Civil Status Registry and who reside in Cameroon, and persons of Cameroonian or foreign nationality whose place of birth is unknown or whose nationality is doubtful have their criminal records lodged at the Ministry of Justice.

Foreigners follow the same process and pay the same fee which is FCFA 2.000. They are however expected to present a photocopy of their passport, valid residence permit and proof of domicile. Though they are not nationals or born within the territory, their criminal records are used to check whether they have committed any crime in the land. Exceptionally also, since 1972, after Reunification, Cameroonians born in the North West and South West regions are authorized to establish their B3 at the Ministry of Justice in Yaounde. Same with the litigants that depended on the Court of First Instance Foumbot which was completely consumed by fire in May 2021.

Bulletin Nos.1 and 2

The procedure to obtain B1 and B2 extracts is different from the one to obtain a B3. Because they are requested by judicial and administrative authorities, they follow a different path. Bulletin Nos. 1 and 2 are delivered exclusively on request to judicial and administrative authorities. Generally, the administration or court concerned sends a correspondence to the Ministry of Justice or the Court of First Instance of a given locality in which the request is clearly detailed. The service con-cerned carries out the search and returns the extract in the form of a correspondence to the requester. Nevertheless, because of time, authenticity, cost and other constraints that are

hindrances to the smooth functioning and quick deliverance of extracts of the criminal record of a given individual, the Ministry of Justice has been examining avenues on how to modernise and digitalise the criminal records in the jurisdictions and at the central record as well. There is hope that, in the near future, the developmental and revolutionary fever that have caught the Ministry of Justice for some years now will next examine the accessibility and modernization of the criminal record in Cameroon.

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