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General News | Jan 28, 2005

Only constitutional amendment can separate dual role of AG, Minister

GNA

Accra, Jan. 28, GNA - Mr Ayikoi Otoo, the nominee for the position of Attorney General and Minister of Justice, on Friday said it was only a constitutional amendment that could ensure the separation of the Attorney General's (AG) position from that of the Minister of Justice.

Answering a question from the Appointments Committee of Parliament on the seemingly compromising position of an Attorney-General and Minister of Justice who is part of the Executive, the nominee said the current constitutional provisions make the Attorney-General part of the government to give advise to the executive.

In answer to a question that the A-G's office could be used to pursue political trials involving opponents instead of the office working for the state, the nominee said it was wrong to use the Department for such political pursuits.

On the need to give prosecuting powers to the Serious Fraud Office, the nominee said the Constitution made it clear that the SFO should report to the Department, which had the powers to prosecute.

On challenges facing the A-G's Department, Mr Otoo said recruitment and retention of lawyers, the lack of accommodation and limited library facilities were areas that had to be looked at to speed up the work of the Department.

As to why lawyers were now seen to be advertising themselves contrary to the ethics of the profession, the nominee said with the liberalisation of the airwaves, many FM stations often invited lawyers to "say all sorts of things and try to advertise themselves." He said currently the Ghana Bar Association had no legal power to discipline members who engaged in such things until portions of their Constitution were amended.

Mr Otoo said it was up to judges to determine elements of malicious intentions, wilfulness and fraudulence, in cases bordering on the thorny issue of the controversial law of "Causing Financial Loss to the State".

On the delays in the administration of justice due to the long annual legal vacation, the nominee said lawyers needed a break from the stress on the job.

He said lawyers were known for dying suddenly from stress while most had problems associated with high blood pressure and therefore there was the need for breaks to enable them to take enough rest.

On his views on expunging the death sentence from the laws of the land, the nominee said it was not for one individual to take a decision on it rather, the issue needed to be debated to arrive at a consensus.

On the criminalisation of marital issues relating to the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill, he said the bill was still being debated but care should be taken to ensure that divorce rates were kept at a minimal level.

In answer to a question from Mr John Mahama, NDC-Bole, on the high cost of fees being charged at the Law School, Mr Otto said the issue would have to be looked at and the A-G's Department together with the General Legal Council.

Giving his personal views on legalising gay marriages as in some countries, the nominee said it was alien to Ghanaian culture and " we shall cross that bridge when we get there."

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