Crime & Punishment Thu, 4 Oct 2007

Judges, magistrates lament instant justice

Accra, Oct. 4, GNA - The Association of Judges and Magistrates of Ghana (AMJG), on Thursday expressed concern about the resort to instant justice by the public, describing it as an embarrassment to the country. Mr Justice J B Akamba, President of the Association, called on members of the Bar and police to work efficiently and speedily in handling criminal cases to save the nation the embarrassment.
Mr Justice Akamba, a Judge of the Court of Appeal, raised these concerns at the 28th Annual General meeting of the AMJG in Accra. He noted that there was a perceived loss of confidence in the justice delivery system culminating in the resort to instant justice. "Our call is for members to deal with matters before them expeditiously," he said.
He noted that people were not ready to answer the issues about instant justice and called on the media to champion public education in order to save the nation from drifting into lawlessness. According to the judge, remanding every suspect without time limit had never solved issue of instance justice "else our Tribunals would have been heroes today".
He said since the nation was under a constitutional dispensation, which set limits for holding suspects, the only way out was expeditious trial and the active involvement of the bench, bar, police and witnesses.
"We also need to have a critical look at the Criminal Procedure Code with the view to dispensing with the archaic procedures." On health needs of the members, Mr Justice Akamba noted that though death was inevitable, the Association was also worried about its occurrences among members.
He noted that some of the deaths could be prevented if health schemes were put in place to enable members to regularly check on their health status.
Mr Justice Akamba said continuing legal education for its members was important and called on the Office of the Chief Justice to strive to build "the individual capacities of our members to ensure better justice delivery".
On image building, Mr Justice Akamba appealed to members to study their friends and members of the bar well saying "that could give you a clue as to how to avert any damage to your image".
He noted that there had been an improvement in the average take home pay of judges of the superior courts pointing out, however, that there had been delays of improvement in conditions of service of the members of the lower bench and urged the Judicial Service to expedite actions on that.
Mr Justice Akamba observed that the issue of shelter for members was a big challenge to the Association and appealed to the Judicial Service to take a critical look at their accommodation issues. He further stressed the need for the Office of the Chief Justice to work together with members in building their capacities to ensure better justice delivery.
The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood commended the judges and magistrates for the good job done during the year. Mrs Justice Wood said she was to embark on Judicial Case Management that normally tied up neatly with the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), empowering judges rather than legal practitioners and their clients to proactively manage and control the pace of litigation. According to the Chief Justice, the Case Management had gained credibility in all strong judiciaries worldwide saying it did not in any way devalue the traditional role of the legal practitioner in adversarial systems.
The Chief Justice was happy with the remarkable contribution of the ADR concept during the year and appealed to members to allow pastors and mediators to see to the resolution of petty cases brought before the court in order to decongest the courts.
Mrs Justice Wood recalled the recent exercise embarked upon by the Office of the Attorney General and the Judiciary in their bid to decongest the country's prisons and appealed to members to remand accused persons where the law made that mandatory. She said the Judicial Service was going to employ some students from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Law Faculty to assist judges with research work.
Mrs. Justice Wood appealed to the judges and magistrates to take local training for them seriously as their promotions would be based on the attendance of such programmes as well as the their dedication to work.
She pleaded with members to show interest in Service's activities and bring up suggestions to the new Communication Unit set up to enhance service delivery.
Mrs Justice Wood presented a three-page copy of her vision to Mr Justice Akamba.
Mrs Justice Sophia O A Adinyira, a Supreme Court Judge, who chaired the occasion, commenting on the 50th legal year celebration: "Access to Justice to Justice - Strengthening Judicial Integrity and Capacity" noted that access to justice was a fundamental human right that formed the basis of the rule of law and good governance. She emphasized the need for members to strengthen their integrity by strictly adhering to the code of ethics and enhance their knowledge, skills and attitudes for judicial diligence. "We as the custodians and enforcers of the Constitution need to constantly remind ourselves that the achievement of the concept of access to justice depends heavily on us in the way and manner we administer justice."
Mrs Justice Adinyira appealed to members to also continue to dedicate themselves to build a truly independent, competent, efficient and effective judicial system.
The Supreme Court Judge urged members to "look at ways that would promote efficiency and uniformity, improve the quality of the Judicial Service and improve judicial conduct in a way that is fair, objective and effective, in order to advance the rule of law in this our dear nation Ghana."
Fourteen retirees were given various awards.

Source: GNA
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