By: Barbara Kumah
Parliament, is to review and approve new Court fees, proposed by the Judiciary for Court services. The Chief Justice, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, said, the new fees, when approved, will be posted across the board of all 430 courts in the country.
This is to promote transparency in the Justice system, and also to put an end to court officials, demanding illegal monies from unsuspecting court users.
The Chief Justice, warned, that she will not hesitate in dispensing with the services of any staff member, who is implicated in such matters.
Justice Torkornoo, said this, at a Community Sensitization Programme, which was held alongside the inaugurations of two courts in Effia Kwesimintin and Mpohor districts in the Western Region.
This is the first, community engagement, by the Chief Justice, for the 2023/2024 legal year.
The twin events, the opening of two distinct courts, in the Effia Kwesimintim and in the Mpohor districts of the Western Region and also the Chief Justice’s Community Sensitization program, which is on the theme “Improving Justice Delivery through Community Engagement.” Educating the public on the existence of the Public Complaints Unit among other interventions by the Service to make justice delivery transparent. Educating them about Court-Connected Alternative Dispute Resolution.
In both districts, the Chief Justice, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, drew attention to the fact that, the Judicial Service of Ghana has been working hard to fulfill all three of conditions over the years.
“Our efforts, tireless and continual, continue to increase the quality of justice, though there is so much more that needs to be done.” Apart from providing physical courts, expanding and refining the rules of procedure with which they work, the Judicial Service is also working hard at instilling in its officers, higher standards of ethical conduct. Through training and Codes of Conduct, the Judicial Service, is demanding accountable service, independence from conflict of interest and integrity from all its officers around the country.
In the words of Justice Torkornoo, as Ghana grows as a society, regulations have been increasingly crafted to assist the less well off in our society to access justice through less complex rules of court, automation of court services and provision of ADR facilities. We are also facilitating greater access to justice for the most vulnerable, including the physically challenged and those already incarcerated. I speak specifically of courts located in prisons, and ADR centers in courts around the country.
During question and answers time, in both Effia Kwesimintim, and Mpohor, the Chief Justice, sought to demystify the Justice system and how it works. Top of the questions asked, bothered on the ethics of members of staff of the Service.
Tackling these questions, the Chief Justice, said, her staff, do not have the right, to exploit the pain of people who seek justice.
She explained that no, judge, will ask for money from anyone, in order to favor them in a case.
She therefore, appealed to the public, not to encourage corrupt practices by the staff of the Judicial Service, by paying illegal monies to them, when same is demanded by Court Officials.
The Chief Justice said, people should file complaints against such officers at the complaint unit at the High Court, or write to her directly. She observed that, she receives not fewer than ten of such complaints in a day, which are investigated by a team of judges, for prompt action to be taken against such offenders.
On why some cases turn to delay in completion, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, said, every court, has its jurisdiction and the duration of a case depends on procedural issues.
She, however, advised court users to ensure that their cases are before the appropriate jurisdictions, and also do well to follow up on their cases to ensure effective and speedy trial.
The Chief Justice said the administration of justice cannot be left to lawyers and judges alone. Speaking to the public , she said, the directions and content of law is so important and so vital to the nation that, all citizens must take a keen interest in all matters to do with its administration.
She ended by stating that If the Country is to thrive and prosper as a nation, then the law needs to be in known, understood, be applied to all and be policed by all.
The inauguration of the courts, is part of the nationwide construction of one hundred Courthouses programme embarked upon by Government in 2020 to improve judicial infrastructure.
The new courts have adequate office space for the various Court functions, washrooms for Staff and Court Users, Male and Female Cells, Solar power, a standby Generator, a Borehole to provide sustainable water supply for the washroom and electric fencing to boost security. There are also dedicated space for Court connected ADR.
The district chief executive officers, of both Effie Kwesimintim and Mpohor, as well as the chiefs and people of the beneficiary communities, were grateful for the siting of the Court in their communities.
The Western Region Minister, Kwabena Okyeame Darko Mensah, said, for a Region that pursues investments as a mainstay it is envisaged that the addition of this Courthouse to the existing stock of Courthouses, will improve the investment profile and thereby increase investor confidence.