27.09.2004 General News

GBA annual conference opens in Takoradi

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Takoradi September 27, GNA - Mr. Justice George Kingsley Acquah, the Chief Justice, on Monday announced that the Judicial Service is embarking on privatisation of the service of court processes in order to abate or completely eliminate the inconveniencies that are currently being experienced.

He announced this in a keynote address at the opening ceremony of 2004/2005 Annual General Conference of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) in Takoradi on Monday.

The conference is under the theme: Corporate Social Responsibility and Human Rights - The Role of the Legal Profession. Mr Justice Acquah said the programme would hopefully take off at the beginning of this Legal Year.

He said the newspaper advertisements put out by the Service indicated the projected use of groups of at least five people for the service processes.

Mr Justice Acquah said applicants would be required to satisfy a panel of interviewers about their capacity both in terms of manpower and logistics to undertake the service of processes originating from the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court, Fast Track Courts in Accra and the Commercial Courts.

Mr Justice Acquah said the privatisation would be a pilot scheme, which would be replicated in phases nationwide depending upon the success that would be achieved at the pilot stage.

He urged well-motivated lawyers to get involved in the service of the processes and expand their existing chambers and facilities to accommodate the required number of process servers.

Mr Justice Acquah said lawyers complain a great deal about non-service of court processes and vent their frustrations on bailiffs who take unauthorised money from their clients without corresponding performance of the tasks for which such monies were paid. He, however, noted that lawyers are sometimes privy to the failure of bailiffs.

Mr Justice Acquah said non-service of court processes and other retrogressive operations of the Judiciary are the causes of the present inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the administration of Justice in the country.

He said, "I cannot permit this state of affairs to continue" and "accordingly, it is my desire and determination, as Chief Justice, to obtain maximum cooperation and active participation of the Bar Association in my efforts at modernizing and reforming the Judiciary".

Mr Justice Acquah said the main obstacle the Service is facing in the reform and modernization exercise is lack of funds.

He said the donor community is doing well but the Service cannot depend completely on donors and therefore the government must make the effort at providing substantial budgetary allocation to the Judiciary to finance the on-going reforms.

Mr Justice Acquah said it is sad that for 100 years since the establishment of Judiciary in the country, there is only one Court of Appeal cited in Accra adding that the country needs to have three more Courts of Appeal in Takoradi, Kumasi and Tamale.

He said the Parliamentary Committee, which investigated the alleged perceived corruption in the Judiciary, made adverse findings against lawyers too.

Mr Justice Acquah said there is evidence that some lawyers collude with staff and even Judges to pervert the course of justice, employ all sorts of tricks to delay the hearing of cases and even fail to attend court when they had been paid by their clients to do so.

He said what the GBA could do in these circumstances is to monitor the conduct of its members so as to expose those who are engaged in such sharp practices and then to be a watchdog on the Judiciary, and to report all conducts of corruption, incompetence and inactivity on the part of any Judge or staff.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and Member of Parliament for Sekondi, said GBA owe it a duty to ensure that its members play their role in upholding the lofty principles, ideals and tenets that underpin the constitution.

This, he said, demands high ethical standards from lawyers and to take decisions that would uplift the legal profession and would be beneficial to society in the discharge of their professional duty. Papa Owusu-Ankomah said, "As members of the legal profession, we must be guided by the oath that we took when we were called to the Bar, always bearing in mind that we ought to seek the public interest and public good which are essentially the purpose and goal of our profession".

He said one of the major challenges facing the legal profession in Ghana is to overcome the wrong perception held by some people of lawyers as being insular, self-seeking and avaricious, helping the financially and socially powerful in society to the detriment of the poor and vulnerable.

In this direction, he commended the Bar for selecting the theme for the conference because the time has come for the profession in Ghana to focus its attention on offering pro bono services to members of communities whose economic rights are being adversely affected by business activities of corporate bodies in their area.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah said while this may involve offering legal service advice and vindicating those rights it must be borne in mind that it need not necessarily involve litigation, adding mediatory and conciliatory efforts should be the rule rather than the exception. He said lawyers representing such corporate bodies must encourage them through legal advice to be alive to their social responsibility, particularly as it affects the economic rights of persons whom they employ or owners of land or residents in the areas where they carry on their business activities.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah said, "this will be assisting the state in achieving the economic objectives imposed on it by Article 36 of the Constitution".

Mr Paul Adu-Gyamfi, National President of GBA, announced that the conference is to donate to the Cape Coast School for the Deaf as the association's contribution towards the running of the school.

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