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16.01.2010 General News

Chief Justice opens Criminal Session for 2009/2010 legal year

By GNA
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Chief Justice opens Criminal Session for 2009/2010 legal year

January 13, 2010
Accra , Jan. 13, GNA - The Chief Justice (CJ), Mrs. Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, has tasked key stakeholders in the administration of justice to approach their work with unparalleled commitment, diligence and passion to ensure real change in justice delivery.

She told jurors, prosecuting teams, defense counsels, police investigators, prison officers, witnesses and court staff that, that was the only way challenges plaguing justice delivery could be addressed.

The Chief Justice made the remarks when opening the criminal session of the 2009/2010 Legal Year in Accra on Wednesday.

The criminal session formerly known as the criminal assizes, is a trial by a presiding judge and jury on more serious criminal cases which by law, could not be tried by a judge alone.

So far 33 murder cases, 12 cases of manslaughter, 19 rape cases, four on use of offensive weapons, and one unnatural carnal knowledge would be dealt with during the session.

Two High Court Judges have been assigned to preside over the cases. They are Mr. Justice Senyo Dzamefe and Mr. Justice Charles Quist.

Mrs. Justice Wood said the courts needed maximum cooperation from stakeholders in order to allow this year's criminal session to operate efficiently and effectively.

"A Juror who fails to turn up on an adjourned date, or a witness who has been scheduled to testify, or an investigator whose duty it is to bring the witness to court but refuses to turn up, is bound to create untold difficulties for others in the criminal justice system, particularly the accused, whose enjoyment of personal liberty has been curtailed," she added

She said the Judicial Service would appoint more judges and establish more courts if indication proved positive during the session.

The CJ noted that cases which had been pending before the courts for a long period with most accused persons kept on remand, was "a blot on our human rights record."

"I therefore hope that applications for adjournment would be kept at the minimum and within the discretion of the judge; adjournment will only be granted where it is absolutely essential to do so," she added.

She therefore appealed to members of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) to honour their vows and social obligation during the criminal session, adding "I expect that where assistance is sought from the Legal Aid Board, it will be readily provided".

The CJ urged jurors to avoid bringing the administration of justice into disrepute saying "integrity, honesty, justice and fair play should be core values to clothe themselves."

She tasked the media to give fair balanced and accurate court proceedings and avoid media trial of accused persons.

Mrs. Betty Mould Iddrrisu, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, said the opening of the session should send a signal to all that Ghana continued to believe in the rule of law as the basis for good governance.

She said it was also in fulfillment of the requirements of rule of law and fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution.

Mrs. Iddrrisu said several cases dated back from 1994 and 1996 were still pending, noting that witnesses could not be traced while investigators had been transferred.

Mr. Frank Beecham, President of GBA, said the era when accused persons were not represented by lawyers should be a thing of the past.

He pledged GBA's commitment to play their part expeditiously in the trial of cases.

Mr. Justice Dzamefe, one of the trial judges urged jurors to be punctual at court sittings and be fair and indifferent in their work.

Robert Ofori Boahen who was being held for murder had his case called during the session, but had no legal counsel.

The court therefore directed the Legal Aid Board to within seven days provide him with a counsel.

Boahen is said to have stabbed to death one Abass Tahiru, a worker at All Days Forex Bureau at Bubuashie, an Accra suburb after they had argued over a fake 20 Pounds Sterling note sent to the bureau by Boahen in 2006.

GNA

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