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01.08.2005 Crime & Punishment

Let us ensure people's satisfaction with quality of justice - CJ

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Accra, Aug 1, GNA - Mr Justice George Kingsley Acquah, Chief Justice (CJ), on Monday underscored the need for members of the Judiciary to ensure that the citizenry are satisfied with the quality of justice being dispensed by the instituton.

Making the call in Accra, he noted that as long as the judicial process "gets more and more relevant for the life of ordinary citizens, their expectations about judicial performance tend to rise."

Mr Justice Acquah was opening a five-day Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA), organised by AITEC Ghana, on the theme: "Judicial Reform-Impact, Driving Force and the Future."

He stated that in any constitutional democracy, judicial power played a vital role in checking political power, protecting and enforcing the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens, and holding even the scales of justice between the citizen and the state.

To ensure a broader and effective protection of the rights and freedoms, the CJ said, most constitutions empowered the courts to go even beyond the rights and freedoms expressly enshrined in those constitutions.

Mr Justice Acquah touched on Judicial Reforms, and noted that their impact should ultimately increase accountability and transparency. He regretted that the element of delay in the administration of justice was one of the major viruses plaguing virtually judiciaries worldwide.

The delays, the CJ said, bred in their wake backlog of cases, and cited Cuba and Singapore as the only countries, which so far, had no backlog of cases.

Mr Justice Acquah was of the view that any judicial reform aimed at improving the human factor in the administration of justice, must take judicial education seriously, adding, "Judicial education can actually inspire attitudinal change, an essential element of any successful judicial reform."

Mr Joseph Ayikoi Otoo, Attorney-General (A-G) and Minister of Justice, suggested that Judicial Reforms should begin with the training of lawyers, and the automation of the courts.

He also called for the review of the penal system, so that there would be sufficient trained lawyers to handle criminal cases. The A-G urged members of the Judiciary to co-operate with their various governments to ensure well-meaning reforms.

The Right Honourable Lord David Hope, President of CMJA noted that independence of the Judiciary and the respect for the Rule of Law in Commonwealth nations "are the ties which bind them together." Mr Justice Yaw Appau, President of the Association of Magistrates and Judges of Ghana stated that the Conference marked an important milestone in the history of the Judiciary in the country, since he said, it was the first of its kind to be held in Ghana.

Participants would be taken through topics including, "Judicial Reforms in the Commonwealth", "Minimizing delays in the administration of Civil Justice" and "Continuing Judicial Education and Judicial Reform".

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