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Courthouses must conform to standardised design — Chief Justice

BY: Dotsey Koblah Aklorbortu
 Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, Chief Justice

The hopes of the chiefs and people in the Wassa East District in the Western Region to have their own district magistrate court was last Tuesday dashed when the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, declared the newly refurbished court unfit for purpose.

Giving her opinion about the building after cutting the tape to inaugurate it at Daboase, the Chief Justice said “this is not the kind of court we want and so you should be thinking of a new court the way we want it.”

She said the facility was exposed, lacked privacy and was not disability friendly and, therefore, not suitable for a courthouse.

The Chief Justice was on a five-day tour of the Western Region to inspect court facilities. She visited Sekondi, Takoradi, Shama and Daboase.

She, particularly, stressed the need for the new standardised version of court building to be strictly followed to make for easy identification, good security and disability friendly.

Standardise all court buildings

She said the judicial service wanted all court buildings standardised so that when a stranger walked into town, the one can easily identify the courthouse simply by its design.

“As it is now, the courts, including offices of the court registrar, are too open to the public instead of having some privacy,” she  pointed out.

She said even though the facility was in use, it was important, nonetheless, to ensure that it befitted a proper court building.

 The Chief Justice observed that the Takoradi District Court, even though was in a good location, there were still had issues of congestion and noise from the environment.

Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo talking to Mr Wilson Arthur, the DCE, and other officials.


Disability-friendly

She said she was displeased with the lack of disability-friendly features in the building and wondered how the physically challenged who were seeking justice could climb up the building to access the courtrooms.

The Chief Justice also expressed her dissatisfaction with the arrangement of furniture in the courtroom describing it as congested.

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 The court building

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DCE disappointed

The District Chief Executive (DCE) for Wassa East, Mr Wilson Arthur, said he had expected commendation from the Chief Justice and not criticism.

He said the assembly was presently not in a position to build a new facility due to its weak financial position.

“The way the assembly system works, I have to table it before the assembly and begin a new process to reconsider building a new court for the district,” he said.

Mr Arthur said until he took office, he realised that the facility, which was in a very bad shape, had to be renovated and furnished for use as a magistrate court with the consent of the assembly.

“We were thinking that the Chief Justice will commend us for coming up with one of the best courthouses in the country and also that it was even better than the High Court,” he said.

The DCE said the assembly would take the comments of the Chief Justice in good faith and would work hard to put her suggestions into action.

“The assembly does not have money to finance a new building, we, therefore, have to source for funds from elsewhere,” he said.

Aside from the court , Mr Arthur said there were demands for other infrastructural needs in the district. Under the circumstances, he said, the assembly would put together the construction of a new courthouse and a district police headquarters for the consideration of the assembly.

Standard courtrooms

In all her rounds, the Chief Justice made it clear that a courtroom must be of a certain standard and not to merely provide furniture and other utilities in a room.

Some lawyers, who spoke to the Daily Graphic, commended the Chief Justice for rejecting poor buildings that were being used as courts.

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