The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has entreated the justice systems in the Commonwealth and global community to fully embrace digitilisation in order to boost access to justice.
In his estimation, pertinent problems such as lack of infrastructure, constraints of time and space which impeded access to justice would be levelled if digitilisation was employed.
“How, for example, can a critical witness who is away from the jurisdiction for very valid reasons, provide the testimony necessary for a case to proceed?
“How can victims of assault tell their story if the result of the assault is that they are permanently tethered to a bed in an infirmary?
“How will a lawyer appear in two courts hours apart if the time between sittings is only a mere few minutes?,” he quizzed.
He said the biggest lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic was that a lot could be achieved through technology if the right digital tools was engaged as it reduced the man-hour required to perform any task, super-charge the efficiency of institutions and empowered individuals at all levels of society.
DrBawumiawas speaking at the opening of the 19th triennial conference of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association(CMJA) in Accra yesterday on the theme “Access to justice in a modern world.”
CMJA is a body based on the Commonwealth that promotes better understanding of judicial independence issues amongst judicial officers of all ranks and from all parts of the commonwealth.
The conference fixed from September 4-9, seeks to promote greater awareness amongst magistrates and judges of the Commonwealth of international treaties and laws relating to development and access to justice.
Amongst the 390 delegates in attendance from the six regions of the Commonwealth were Chief Justices, judges, magistrates and justice officers.
Touting the government’s adoption of digitilisation to ease access to justice, Dr Bawumia said the introduction of virtual courts, an electronic case management system and a Justice For All Programme(JFAP) that leaned heavily on digital technology to expedite the cases of prisoners held on remand beyond the constitutional limit, defined the successful impact of digitilisation in the access of justice.
Justice of the Supreme Court and Local Organising Committee (LOC) Chair, Justice Jones Dotse, who represented the Chief Justice, Justice KwasiAnin- Yeboah, said technology had proven to be an effective and budget friendly option that enhanced expansion of access and curbed the financing threat to access.
Aside JFAP, Justice Dotse pointed to vacation courts as another success achieved through technology.
“The same technology allowed us to schedule17 vacation courts in Accra, enabling more people to have their cases heard and eased the backlog,” the intimated.
Justice Dotse disclosed that the introduction of the technology in the e-justice court system currently had 31,000 registered users and 6,109 cases and reduced the cost of litigation, need for travel and eliminated the possibility of missing dockets.
On his part, Justice Charles Mkandawire, president of the CMJA said financial, procedural and systemic barriers were denying many citizens in the Commonwealth countries access to justice.
He said the conference would brainstorm on contemporary issues including digitalising court systems, gender equality and diversity in the judiciary, job safety of the judiciary, standard of judicial behaviour in private life amongst others.
BY NANA BENTSI ODURO