Need to provide sustainable legal services for arrested poor persons – Chief Justice
The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, on Monday called for the provision of a legal system that would ensure sustainable legal services for arrested poor persons.
She said the new system should be able to identify the various stakeholders in the justice delivery system by co-coordinating their activities to ensure a sustainable access to fair justice for arrested poor persons.
The Chief Justice made the call in a speech read for her by Mr Justice William Atuguba, a Supreme Court Judge, at a Sub-Regional Conference on access to justice for arrested poor persons in West Africa.
The two-day conference being held in Accra and attended by participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia is on the theme: “Knowledge Building Through Experience Sharing”.
Participants from other institutions participating are Ghana Bar Association (GBA), Ghana Law Reform Commission (GLRC), Ghana Police Service and Ghana Prisons Service.
Mrs Justice Wood said the importance of ensuring access to fair justice particularly criminal justice in the world had been relatively underscored by current events.
She said it was common knowledge that one of the key sources of discontent with the system of governance that had triggered off pent up mass revolt in northern Africa was the lack of fair access to the criminal justice delivery system.
Mrs Justice Wood said the plight of arrested poor persons could only be ameliorated if the identities and locations of the judicial system for relief were well known and readily accessible throughout the country.
She noted that the Courts Act, l993 (Act 459) had elaborate and enhanced provisions on court-provided legal aid for poor persons.
The Chief Justice said even though there was greater need for legal aid in the Lower Courts, provisions under the Act were more restricted than in the Superior Courts which were more remote as far as the prosecutorial resort to them were concerned.
She said apart from Federation of International Female Lawyers (FIDA) which was more concerned with community civil rights issues there were virtually no public law firms and justice centres interested in pursuing cases of an arrested poor person at the police station.
Mr Samuel Okudzeto, a private legal practitioner, appealed to the Attorney General’s Department, the Police and other law enforcing agencies to ensure that the rights of arrested poor persons in any part of the country were protected.
He said the AG’s Department and the police should not see it as a stigma when they processed an accused person for court to be discharged later.
Mr Okudzeto said the Police as a law enforcing agency must be seen to be respecting the rights of people arrested and placed in their custody.