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19.11.2004 Crime & Punishment

Chief Justice calls for improved service conditions

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Accra, Nov. 19, GNA - Mr Justice Kingsley Acquah, Chief Justice on Friday called for a better and favourable service conditions for the judicial service.

He said the Service was being accused of incompetence, corruption and delays in the adjudication of cases and that majority of the allegations could be traced to the unsatisfactory infrastructure facilities and the environment under which the judiciary worked.

Speaking at a forum in Accra, Mr Acquah said when members of the service were properly enumerated there would be no justification for any delays and malfeasance in the service. The forum was the third in a series on challenges of the reform and modernisation programme of the judiciary in Accra organised by the National Governance Programme.

Members of the judicial service, police service, private sector, development partners and ministers participated.

The Chief Justice said, "we are aware of the public's unfavourable perception of our performance and thus feel obliged to let the public know of our efforts at improving our image.

Mr Acquah said challenges facing the service included the expansion and improvement of infrastructure, improvement in the quality and efficiency in justice delivery particularly at the magistrate courts and in the administration of criminal justice.

Others are the development of a strong judicial training centre for judges, administrative staff and outsiders, the development of an enforceable and effective code of ethics and anti-corruption measures as well as the institution of an attractive service conditions for both the bench and the administrative staff.

"I will prefer that we are given about three quarters of our total emoluments in cash while the remaining one quarter was provided as percentages of our salaries for the facilities which hitherto were enjoyed free"

Mr Justice Acquah said in the case of accommodation, "while we can still retain the provision of free bungalows for High Court and lower court judges because they had to go on transfer, it is my view that the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court Judges on their appointment should be given housing grants to enable them to acquire and furnish their own houses or accommodation."

He said this was because the senior judges did not go on transfer - and that would leave the bungalows in Accra to be allocated to High court and lower court judges.

He said the cost of repairing, refurbishing and furnishing bungalows had outstripped the capacity of the service to fulfil as free condition of service.

"Currently we are given one sixth of our conditions of services in cash as salary and the remaining provided in the enjoyment of free facilities.

"To me this is totally unsatisfactory as it does not put enough money in the hands of judges to manage his affairs in the way they deem fit."

He said: "the situation becomes worse in times of one's retirement when all the numerous free facilities enjoyed were withdrawn and one was left on a paltry retiring subsistence" and the situation has the tendency of leading to some members in engaging in unprofessional conducts to secure something for their future.

Mrs Leonora Kyerematen, National Governance Programme Coordinator called on government, development partners, the private sector and the entire citizenry to support the full and proper resourcing of the judicial service.

She said the work of the courts was expanding in an era of awareness their responsibility.

She urged the district assemblies to provide adequate and respectable court buildings and magistrates' residences for the service.

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