Volta, Oti magistrates train in trauma-informed judicial practice
A total of 26 selected magistrates and their court registrars, as well as family tribunal panel members, in the Volta and Oti regions, have ended a two-day training in ‘Trauma-informed Judicial Practice’ in Ho.
The objective of the programme, which was organised jointly by the Judicial Service of Ghana and the International Justice Movement (IJM), was meant to give the participants an understanding of the impact of trauma on victim engagement in court proceedings.
It also sought, among others, to enable the participants to recognise how trauma-informed courtroom environment, procedures and communication can both reduce anxiety and trauma, to protect victims and witnesses to fully engage them in court proceedings.
A Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Dennis Adjei, in a presentation, entreated the participants to eschew all forms of bias and prejudice about accused persons and witnesses in cases brought before them to ensure fair proceedings.
Innocent until proven guilty
He pointed out that persons arrested for crimes and subsequently processed for the court were presumed innocent by the court unless proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubts.
“For that matter, proceedings in court were meant to establish the truth of the case before the court,” Justice Adjei added.
“For instance, an accused person with a weird haircut may not be guilty of the crime he or she was accused of, and so presuming him guilty of the crime based on the haircut will not serve the interest of justice,” he said.
The Justice of the Appeal Court, therefore, underlined the need for magistrates to have a sound understanding of trauma and its impact on victims, as well as the link between legislation and practice regarding trauma victims’ rights.
He also cautioned the participants against remanding accused persons in custody as a way of punishing them, since they may not be found guilty, after all, at the end of the proceedings.
The Manager of Aftercare Services of IJM, Gabriel Acolatsey, said the movement’s core mission was to work with law enforcement and other government agencies to rescue child trafficking victims on the Volta Lake, restore them and facilitate the prosecution of the perpetrators.
Since 2015, he said, IJM had partnered with relevant government agencies to rescue 452 victims and arrested 250 suspected perpetrators of such crimes.
Out of those arrested, 94 had been successfully prosecuted and 163 of the victims had been successfully restored, said Mr Acolatsey.
“We have been able to achieve this feat through collective hard work with the Ghana Police Service, Department of Social Welfare, the Attorney-General’s Department, Judicial Service, our shelter partners and other stakeholders,” he added.
The participants were selected from Ho, Kpando, Jasikan and Kete Krachi, in the Volta Region, and Dambai in the Oti Region.