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01.06.2006 General News

Ghartey Thrills Committee Members

By Chronicle

As if he knew the questions he was going to be asked before he appeared before the committee, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General-elect, Joe Ghartey, thrilled members of the appointments committee yesterday.

The answers he gave to questions he was asked were exact, accurate and straight to the point. This performance made both spectators and members excited at his output.

Joe Ghartey told the committee that there is the need for a second look at the sentencing policy for convicted persons because the conditions of our prisons are not good enough to accommodate all such persons.

This, he said, should be done in such a way that we don't have many people in our prisons at once. Instead, he suggested that other forms of punishment could be looked at and gave an example as community service.

The minister-elect said this in response to a question by the MP for Kade, Mr. Ofosu Asamoah, on whether in the wake of our overburdened prisons, it was proper for parliament to consider the transfer of convicted persons bill.

He noted that it was proper for parliament to consider every bill; that was why it was sent to parliament for consideration.

"Whether it is important or not is for us as members of parliament to consider".

Mr. Ghartey explained that if a man, for instance, steals a fowl and is sentenced to serve a two-year term, the money used for taking care of that person is more than the cost of the fowl the person stole.

He added that the transfer of convicted persons' bill did not bind a person serving a sentence in a different country to come to the home country to continue it.

"If I am serving a sentence in London, it is better than serving it in Ghana".

Asked how he would cope with his senior practitioners in executing his duty as a young lawyer who has risen to the high position of AG and justice minister, the outspoken minister-elect said 18 years at the bar is not a relatively short time.

According to him, the position he is about to be given does not make him better than his senior colleagues; as such he would give them the necessary respect and cooperate fully with them.

"I would cooperate fully with them and surprise you all".

On the amendment of the constitution to make the position of the AG non-ministerial and non-partisan and separate from that of Justice, Mr. Ghartey mentioned that dividing the position would not make a difference because it is the person that makes the office and not the other way round.

He said history had proved that at the time when the ministry of justice was different from the Attorney General's office, the Attorney General's office was even more partisan than present.

He promised that if he is given the nod, he would set standards by minimising the mistakes of wrong charges in cases by improving the system of monitoring.

He also promised to create a system where it is not only one person who would look at a particular case, and again introduce continous legal education to improve the knowledge-base of all the workers.

Earlier, before the commencement of the hearing, minority leader, Alban Bagbin, raised an objection against members of the appointments committee who had been nominated to come before the committee.

He contended that to make the committee more credible, such members should not be part of the sitting of the committee until they have appeared before it.

"It is proper that they do not be part of these proceedings".

The minister of water resources, works and housing, Hackman Owusu Agyeman, said the rules and procedures of the committee had not changed; as such he did not see the disadvantage of such members of the committee.

The chairman, Freddy Blay, said he saw a lot of sense in what the minority leader had raised but all the same they had to make progress.