22.12.2010 Feature Article

Let There Be Justice

Let There Be Justice
22.12.2010 LISTEN

The last refuge of the citizen for justice is the law courts. If the legal system is flawed or if judges are influenced in their decisions, then the citizen may be denied justice. The national motto “Freedom and Justice” then becomes a sham.

There is the general perception that there is corruption in the courts. But when one examines evidence or stories carefully, one comes to the conclusion that the public bears the principal blame.

The Chief Justice was therefore, right at a recent forum to call on the general public to leave judges alone to make their decisions without fear or favour. She reminded the public that court decisions should not be based on extra-legal matters such as media trial and public opinion.

In this regard, the media has an important role to play. Cases pending in court should be handled carefully and the law relating to information on such matters should be respected in letter and spirit.

The courts should also put their house in order. I have had good experience in our courts. But I have also been saddened by happenings.

By a letter of attorney, I represented a friend who resided outside Ghana. The case was heard now and again after so many adjournments. At one short adjournment, a relation told me that the judge retired for kenkey and fish to which she was invited!

Eventually, hearings were completed and we waited for judgement. For months, it was not given. I was forced to complain to the then Chief Justice who was a friend as was the judge. Nothing happened. My confidence in the legal system has not fully recovered.

But if the court administrative system and the judiciary have much to answer, a greater blame rests on the public.

When I was at school, I knew of a legal practitioner who was known as an “alibi” lawyer. In serious cases, he schooled witnesses to swear and lie about the accused being miles away from the incidence of crime. The accused was then freed on the grounds that he was not present at the scene of the crime.

In latter years, a distinguished jurist now dead told me about his surprise when as a newly qualified lawyer from England a “witness” asked him to instruct him the witness what to say.

Apparently, there were professional witnesses who were schooled to give false evidence. My elderly lawyer friend was appalled. He was therefore, ruthless in cross-examination as a lawyer and stern as a judge.

Our judges have a difficult task. But they are of our stock and should know how to deal with those who attempt to subvert the course of justice. Above all they should not entertain by those who have interest in cases before them.

No amount of legislation or intricate proceedings can secure us sound judgements in our courts. The Chief Justice can do a lot to ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done. But ultimately, it is the value system of society which ensures that justice is done.

There was a time when just anybody could not be a lawyer let alone a judge. Today, it is the ability to pass examinations only which entitles one to be a lawyer and ultimately to become a judge.

The values of society should help in such a situation. But if anything goes, or if money determines an individual’s worth in society, then it becomes difficult for even judges to maintain the social and moral virtues.

Yes, there is a lot wrong with the judicial process. But we can help redress the system. We should do what is right and heed the call of the Chief Justice to leave judges alone to make their decisions.

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