Judges must update knowledge

BY: Daily Graphic
Chief Justice, Sophia Akufo
Chief Justice, Sophia Akufo

The courts exist to apply and interpret the laws of the land, as well as resolve disputes that arise under them.

In applying and interpreting the laws, the courts pronounce sentences mainly based on a philosophical principle of what the legal system regards as the purpose of punishment.

These may include a sentence that serves as a response to satisfy an aggrieved party.

The principle can also aim to discourage both the offender and potential offenders from committing a similar crime.

At other times the underlying philosophy is to prompt society to express disapproval of the offence to reinforce moral values.

The penalty can also focus on making the offender incapable of committing further crime, reforming the offender’s behaviour or making repayment to victims to assuage their pain.

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These are to ensure that society is safe and orderly for law-abiding people to carry out their activities without let or hindrance.

Despite the courts’ role in ensuring this, for a long time those who patronise the services of the Judiciary, especially those who have cases in the courts, have complained time without number about some of the judgements delivered by our judges, with others attributing the situation to the litigant, defendant or accused in question lacking favour, either politically or socially, while others blame corruption for the practice.

This has contributed to the mistrust some people have in the judicial process.

But yesterday, at the annual general meeting of the Association of Judges and Magistrates, the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, hit the nail right on the head when she chastised judges for delivering sloppy judgement and said such decisions made the Judiciary a laughing stock in society.

The Daily Graphic takes the swipe at the judges as something that calls for serious introspection by our judges.

We note that magistrates and judges are people who have practised law for many years before they are called to the Bench, so for them to deliver judgements exceeding their jurisdiction and also not found in law is something that cannot be defended in any way.

The Chief Justice cited several instances of wrongful judgement and we see these as instructive, coming from no mean a personality than the head of the Judiciary.

Certainly, these instances must have resulted in a miscarriage of justice.

They have, no doubt, shaken some members of society, as wrongful judgement delivered by a court can result in somebody even facing capital punishment.

Even when a wrongfully convicted person is not executed, years in prison can have a significant, irreparable consequence on him or her and his or her family.

We are glad that the revelations are being made by the Chief Justice of Ghana, who is the highest judge, head of the Judiciary and responsible for its administration and supervision.

She also administers the oath of allegiance and the judicial oath to all justices of the superior courts, as well as being the Chairperson of the Rules of Court Committee which makes guidelines regulating the practice and procedure of all courts in Ghana.

We expect her to name and shame judges who continue to deliver strange judgements as she said.

Again, we see the Chief Justice as being in a position to initiate reforms that will ensure that judges deliver quality judgements.

We are already aware of the various reforms that are still ongoing in the Judiciary and we support the chief justices insistence that regular training programmes would continue.

We also ask for a stringent rewards and sanctions regime that will motivate our judges to deliver quality judgements as required of them.

We should not fail in this, for a wrongful judgement has the potential to dent the image of the judges and the Judiciary, with the attendant recipe for disrespect for law and order.