The bench and the bar…The last hope for the common man in Ghana?

 Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood — Chief Justice“The adversarial litigation system practiced in our jurisdiction and other common law jurisdictions have led many unwise practitioners to think that obnoxious conduct is the mark of the smart lawyer. But being passionate about defending your clients cannot remotely justify aggression or lack of civility,” she stressed.

As for the issue of corruption, the Chief Justice exhausted her energy in the past two years appealing to both the Bench and the Bar to eschew the cankerworm because of its incalculable effects on the dispensation of justice and on the very existence of the people who look up to them as their last hope.

At every forum, the thrust of her address was the urgent need to bring corruption to its knees. As at the time of this publication, she continued to preach zero tolerance for corruption in the judiciary

Also, on March19, 2015, the Chief Justice noted that, members of the bench should reassess themselves in scholarly judgments as well as their relationships with the academics.

Speaking at the opening of the 2015 faculty, Bench and Bars conference in Accra, Justice Wood lamented the issue of remand prisoners (awaiting trials), stressing that “in spite of reform initiatives to address the challenges in the administration of justice at great financial cost to the nation, institutional cultures, attitudes and individual moves had remained somewhat resistant to change.”

The CJ expressed regret that the “ complaints of the unprofessional behaviours by some members of the legal profession and the equally slow pace of the administration of Justice continued to undermine the level of public confidence in our work and our place as leading lights in democratic governance.”

For a better appraisal of this write-up the stunning pronouncements by the top echelon of the Judiciary as contained in the stories carried by The Ghanaian Times on different dates have been reproduced and quoted extensively.

The observations made publicly by the hierarchy of the justice system in the country did not only speak volumes. but also left a huge question mark over the legal terrain and both the Bench and the Bar have a lot to answer.

For instance where were the defenders of the people’s rights while courts were giving judgments that led to the payments of huge amounts of money by the government to undeserving persons, a scenario which has become known as judgment debts, the enormity of which Ghanaians are still managing to cope with?

Where were those who claim to be the mouthpiece of the masses while the courts continued to keep suspects in prison custody for four, five or six years, awaiting trial for petty offences?

Where were the leading lights in this democratic setting while the courts continued to imprison petty thieves for 15, 20, and 30years while others who stole tens or hundreds of millions of Ghana cedis of the people’s money were set free for lack of diligent prosecution?

What would be the perception of the international community about our justice system if nobody would raise an eye brow when Ghanaians, as high as medical practitioners, legal practitioners, journalists, university teachers, craftmen etc, would be refused bail for alleged rape, defilement, sodomy, and would be brought to court in handcuffs as if they were hardened criminals or armed robbers?

Why can’t the Ghana Bar Association’s Committee on Human Rights contest these dehumanizing treatments in court by way of interlocutory motion and get the courts to make definite pronouncements on them?

The rulings and decisions will help develop the law and make law practice more vibrant.

Where were the non-governmental organisations who receive grants for purpose of taking up or monitoring the human rights situations and who should not wait to be in structed?

Some of the remand prisoners may have been on remand for upwards of four, five or six years awaiting trial not for armed robbery or murder but for petty stealing and is it because they are very poor to employ the services of legal practitioners?

By James Dadzie

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