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15.07.2004 General News

Parliament passes Courts (Amendment) Bill

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Accra, July 15, GNA - Parliament on Thursday passed the Courts (Amendment) Bill.

The Bill, when given the Presidential assent, is expected to amend the Courts Act 1993 as amended to enable non-lawyers who have acquired the requisite limited training in law, pursue a career in the Judicial Service as magistrates in the district courts and to effect some technical changes to the Act.

A memorandum accompanying the Bill said the main reason for the amendment of the Bill was the lack of magistrates to operate at the district courts.

It said "the reality on the ground now indicates clearly that the Judiciary had not been able to recruit young lawyers as was hoped, and the result is that at the moment there are only 69 instead of at least 110 magistrates".

"Some of these will soon move to Circuit Courts, thus causing even greater vacancies to be filled at the district courts," it added. The memorandum said in the present predicament, upon the proposal of the Judicial Council, government had accepted that the present arrangement should be altered to enable non-lawyers to be trained in the core subject area of law for two years at the School of Law, after which they could be appointed as magistrates.

It said the Courts Act 1993, in respect of appointment of district court magistrates, provided that a person could not be appointed a magistrate unless the person was of high moral character and proven integrity and a lawyer of not less than three years standing. This qualification for district magistrate follows the abolition of the Community Tribunals where the tribunal was constituted by a panel presided over by a chairman who should be a person of high moral character and proven integrity and preferably be a lawyer of not less than three years standing or "a person with such judicial or legal experience as the Chief Justice shall on the advice of the Judicial Council determine", the memorandum added.

It said the intentions at the time of abolishing the Community Tribunals, was to bring back the district court magistrate system, ideally presided over by lawyers and do away with the grade II magistrate court in view of the rather poor calibre of those magistrates.

The house also adopted the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Trade, Industry and Tourism and Communications on the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Copyright Treaty.

The WIPO Copyright Treaty seeks to develop and maintain the protection of the rights of authors in their literary and artistic works in an effective and uniform manner as possible. The copyright protection offered under the Treaty extends to expressions and not ideas, procedures, methods of operation or mathematical concepts.

The Treaty was adopted in response to the need for new international rules that would provide adequate and effective solutions to questions raised by the rapid advancements made in the economic, social, cultural and technological fields.

The Treaty also gives authors the exclusive right of authorising and making available to the public the originals and copies of their works for distribution or for commercial rental to the public. The House later adopted the report on the WIPO's Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which seeks to develop and maintain the protection of the rights of performers and producers of phonogram.

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