The President of the Association of Magistrates and Judges of Ghana (AMJG), Justice Senyo Dzamefe, yesterday decried the state of insecurity in lower and superior courts across the country.
Justice Dzamefe said although the Association raised the concern with the Judicial Service for the provision of Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras to all courts, there still had not been any changes.
Currently, he said that there were no security cameras in the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land, let alone the lower courts.
“At the last AGM, we invited management to take measures to safeguard the security of judges both in court and out of court. It is sad to repeat same that as at today we still do not have any CCTV cameras in the Supreme Court let alone the other courts,” said Justice Dzamefe at the 40th Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Accra on the theme:” The Quandry of the judge in the digital world.”
Justice Senyo noted that the trend of affairs meant that the Judicial Service took the security of judges for granted.
“We dare say management is taking the security of judge’s for granted. We have incidents of hooligans entering a court in session to snatch an accused standing trial. A stitch in time they say saves nine,” Justice Dzamefe added.
The AMJG boss who is also a Court of Appeal judge enumerated other challenges confronting judges and justice delivery, as non-payment of allowances, accommodation and deplorable state of some court buildings in the country.
For example, Justice Dzamefe stated that as at September this year, “we still have not received fuel allowance for the year.”
“Mr Chairman, it is so frustrating to say the least. Mr Chairman without mincing words, we are so frustrated. We feel disrespected about the way our allowances are being paid as if it is a favour being done us”.
The Court of Appeal judge noted that for so many years the allowances had not been paid and even when it was paid, they were taxed as if it was paid upfront .
On the issue of accommodation, Justice Dzamefe said that although 21 town houses had been acquired for 21 Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judges at Cantonments following the demolition of the judges’ houses for the National Cathedral project, the new houses had structural defects.
According to him, the houses were directly on flight path near the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) and that the force with which the planes took off directly affected the houses.
He said aside the terrible noise created by the planes, the doors and items of the houses shook when the heavy planes flew over.
Justice Dzamefe said the contractor negligently failed to fix double-glazed glass windows to curtail the noise and appealed to the Judicial Service to get the contractor to do the right thing in order to save the lives of the occupants as well as the life span of the building.
For his part, the Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Annin Yeboah, asked judges to serve the justice needs of the people regardless of limited logistic constraints.
The Chief Justice underscored the need for judges and magistrates to embrace technology in the administration of justice in order to thrive in the technological world.
Justice Yeboah said the accelerated use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the judiciary had steadily provided an alternative means of accessing the courtroom through the e-justice and virtual courtroom platforms.
Justice Yaw Apau, a Supreme Court judge and Chairman of the AGM reminded the judges and magistrates that the judiciary was the anchor of Ghana’s democracy and that once “it is destroyed, the whole country is destroyed.”
In a goodwill message, out-going President of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), Mr Anthony Forson Jr., said the use of digital technology must serve to maintain and enhance the quality of how judicial authority was exercised by the judicial system.
BY MALIK SULLEMANA