Accra, Oct. 27, GNA - The Chief Justice, Mr Justice George Kingsley Acquah on Thursday inducted into office 18 persons as career Magistrates to fill vacant positions in 81 Magistrate's Courts.
The country needs about 800 Magistrate's Courts.
Thirty-two people were in October 2003 inducted to pursue a two-year programme but the Judicial Council recommended only 18 for the President's appointment.
One passed away while the Police was searching for another for his involvement in extortion. Five were withdrawn, while seven have been referred in their examinations and are expected to re-sit them on November 16.
Administering the judicial oath and oath of allegiance to the Magistrates, Mr Justice Acquah observed that all over the world there had been calls for more magistrates and the trend now was to recruit well-educated laypersons and train them to man lower courts.
"These trained lay magistrates remain at the lower courts for years, acquiring valuable experience and knowledge, which enable them to administer quality justice to the people at the grassroots." He said in his view it was advantageous to rely on well-educated laypersons with requisite judicial training to man the lowest courts. Mr Justice Acquah told the magistrates that the expertise they would acquire at the lower court would enhance their efficiency and be effective in the adjudication of cases.
"As magistrate you are deemed to possess and indeed expected to exhibit a sense of honesty, integrity, efficiency and selflessness," he said.
"You are to determine any matter before you impartially and in accordance with law, depending on only the law and facts before you and not personalities involved in the case. Anything short of this will be dishonourable."
The Chief Justice told them that the Judiciary was not a gold mine saying: "If it is your intention to make money at the expense of your work then you have missed your way."
He informed them about the existence of the Court Inspectorate and Complaints Division that received and investigated complaints made against them and urged them not to entertain the notion that because they were far away from Accra, they could not be investigated. The Chief Justice urged them to guard their tongue and conduct their affairs in a manner that would bring honour to their families, society, Judicial Service and the entire nation.
He thanked the government, UNICEF and other donors for supporting the Career Magistrate Programme.
Professor Justice A Kodzo Paaku Kludze, Director of the Career Magistrate Programme, said the programme, which was the brainchild of the Chief Justice, was the first of its kind in Ghana and marked a special milestone in the evolution of the country's legal system and the administration of justice.
Prof. Kludze commended the immense role of lay magistrates over the years saying that they had contributed to the reduction of the backlog of cases.
He noted that even the superior court was clogged adding cases, which should have been heard and disposed off quickly at the magistrate's courts were brought to either the Circuit Court or High Court because of the non-availability of magistrates. Mrs Jane Acquah, wife of the Chief Justice, presented certificates to the magistrates.