Chief Justice chastises judges over sloppy judgements

BY: Mabel Aku Baneseh
Mr Justice Victor Ofoe (middle) interacting with the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo (left), and Justice Gifty Dekyem, a High Court judge, after the event. Picture: EMMANUEL ASAMOAH ADDAI
Mr Justice Victor Ofoe (middle) interacting with the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo (left), and Justice Gifty Dekyem, a High Court judge, after the event. Picture: EMMANUEL ASAMOAH ADDAI

The Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, has taken a swipe at judges who deliver sloppy judgements.

She said it was unacceptable for judges to deliver judgements exceeding their jurisdiction and also not found in law.

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Such level of incompetence, Ms Justice Akuffo noted, made the Judiciary a laughing stock in society.

Delivering the keynote address at the 38th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Association of Judges and Magistrates, Ghana (AMJG) in Accra today, Ms Justice Akuffo said “…some procedural/substantive lapses and misapplication of the law on the part of some judges and magistrates do not convey to the public that judges and magistrates administer justice with independent knowledgeable minds”.

Instances


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Citing instances which had resulted in “grave miscarriage of justice”, Ms Justice Akuffo said a judge recently sentenced a pregnant woman, contrary to the law.

The Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Act, 1960 (Act e0), as amended by Act 633, places a duty on the judge or magistrate to cause the conduct of a pregnancy test on a woman of child-bearing age who is convicted, and if the test turns out to be positive, to grant her a non-custodial or suspended sentence.

“Also a judge recently gave a decision that resulted in an accused person’s surety being incarcerated for non-production of the accused person for trial and inability to pay the bail bond, in accordance with Section 104 (4) of Act 30,” the Chief Justice disclosed. 

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She reminded the judges and magistrates that the incarceration of a surety for non-production of an accused person had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the case of Martin Kpebu v the Attorney-General (N0. 1), which held that a recognizance is in the nature of a bond, which is actually a contract, and failure to fulfill gives rise to a civil debt and not a criminal cause or matter.

She listed nine other decisions which were contrary to law and urged judges and magistrates to take a cue and desist from engaging in such acts this legal year.

She warned that the failure of judges and magistrates to desist from engaging in acts contrary to law would lead to her naming and shaming culprits in the near future.

She also slammed complaints from some judges and magistrates that there were too many training programmes and stated that the training programmes would continue to be held to foster the delivery of quality justice in the country.

The Chief Justice said “the Judiciary’s constitutionally mandated independence is not for fancy or parochial interests; it is for assurance of the effectiveness of our outcomes”.

Strike

The Chief Justice also reminded the judges and magistrates that it was illegal to embark on strike.

According to her, the AMJG was not a union but an interest group which did not have the same mandate as the Judicial Service Staff Association of Ghana (JUSAG), a union.

Ms Justice Akuffo assured them that she was willing and ready to continue fighting for improved conditions of service but would not condone threats.

“It is becoming tiresome to hear judges threaten strike,” the Chief Justice stated, and said “it is a shame when threatening letters are serialised in newspapers”.

Ms Justice Akuffo further urged judges and magistrates to manage their cases well to deliver expeditious justice.

Attorney General

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo, said surveys on public perception of the Judiciary and the 2015 Anas expose on the rot in the Judiciary painted a not-too-pleasant picture.

She said the outcome of the surveys created the impression that the Executive was controlling the Judiciary.

She said the Judiciary should strive to negate such public perceptions by delivering justice without fear or favour.

“Judges must take control of their courts to deliver justice,” the Attorney-General stressed.

The Attorney-General expressed the hope that the ongoing e-justice project would go a long way to facilitate the speedy and efficient delivery of justice.

AMJG President

The President of the AMJG, Mr Justice Victor Ofoe, thanked the Chief Justice and a Supreme Court judge, Mr Justice Jones Dotse, for spearheading the advocacy for the enrolment of career magistrates for the professional law course.

He said the salaries of judges had been increased but it was not to their satisfaction.

He also expressed concern about the continued delay in the payment of their salary arrears.

Mr Justice Ofoe said the independence of the Judiciary was still an issue because the Executive still controlled the budget of the Judiciary.

There were goodwill messages from the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) and the JUSAG.

The theme for this year’s AGM was: “Independence of the Judiciary: The way forward”.