The Writer
The Writer

All hail the Chief Justice

THERE is a popular Akan phrase which loosely translates into ‘good works/ deeds deserve praise’.


 The phrase resonated with yours truly when I got news of a whole set of Practice Directions which have been issued by the Chief Justice to courts, judges and legal practitioners alike to help in the smooth, orderly and speedy adjudication of cases. 

Normally, courtroom procedure is regulated by the Rules of Court. Practice directions are supplemental protocols to the procedural Rules of Court (both civil and criminal) and, just like the substantive rules, are geared towards the smooth regulation of court procedure.

In a document entitled Compendium of Practice Directions and Administrative Guidelines in Ghana 2024, the Office of the Chief Justice has produced an excellent and comprehensive guide and instructions to facilitate the smooth and no doubt orderly and speedy adjudication of cases. These will augment the Rules of Court and improve the efficiency of the court system.

Whilst Practice Directions are regular and ‘de rigeur’ in other jurisdictions, I was slightly taken aback upon relocation to Ghana to find that these valuable guidelines were a tad on the low side in terms of regularity. Enter the arena, her Ladyship Gertrude Araba Torkornoo and, hey presto, it rains cats and dogs with Practice Directions. I do not doubt that they will have a monumental impact on our legal system and it is only right that all should hail her for her resolve to make an impact - kudos again.

The Compendium covers a wide range involving chiefs/chieftaincy issues, injunctions to restrain the burial of a deceased person, speedy resolution of jury trials, the use of the Supreme Court registry, adjournments and adoption of proceedings in part-heard trials, commercial pre-trial settlement hearings, online publication of judgments and rulings, guidelines on court proceedings and last but not least, guidelines on the generation of suit numbers.

Comprehensive directions

What is impressive is not only the sheer comprehensiveness of the Practice Directions but that most of them are a response to some of the intractable and contentious areas that have given our courts anxious moments in the recent past. For example, jury trials have come under criticism recently and I have been at the vanguard of the advocacy for its reform, and it is most gratifying to see the Chief Justice’s response.

Another area that has generated controversy in the past is cases involving hearings where a section of family members brings applications to stop the burial of deceased persons so it’s great to get clear guidelines in the disposal of such cases. 

Also, we were all witnesses to the hullabaloo and brouhaha that the ongoing trial of the Lithovit fertiliser case (the Opuni trial) generated when the presiding judge went on retirement and a new judge was appointed to continue and the issue of adoption of proceedings came up. The release of a Practice Direction on the adoption of proceedings in part-heard trials is, therefore, very welcome. By and large, these Practice Directions have positively responded to some of the areas of the procedural practice where matters were not very clear and straightforward.

The Compendium of Practice Directions includes one on Plea Bargaining and given its importance to the administration of criminal justice, it is worthwhile spilling some ink on its meaning and potential ramifications. 

A plea bargain is an arrangement between the prosecution and an accused person whereby the accused person pleads guilty to a lesser charge. Plea bargain arrangements have enormous benefits both for prosecution and defence. For the prosecution or the state, it saves money, time and resources which otherwise would have been expended on lengthy and more important, costly prosecutions. 

Also, in very difficult criminal cases, the prosecution may drop a charge for an accused person in return for using him as a prosecution witness if he can offer crucial evidence. It also helps in decongesting prisons as the arrangement allows some accused persons to avoid prison. For the accused person, the reduction of a serious charge or its complete withdrawal has tremendous advantages and appeal.

With the introduction of plea bargaining through the Criminal Offences Amendment Act, a gradual but palpable change is quietly taking place to bring the criminal justice system of Ghana up to comparable international standards. It also enhances the democratic credentials of the country.

In this regard, the movers and shakers of this push for excellence are to be commended. So once again – Ayekoo to her Ladyship the Chief Justice.

The writer is a lawyer. 
Writer’s email: [email protected]

Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |

Like what you see?

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...