Abolish trial by Jury – High Court Judge

A Koforidua High Court judge, Mr Justice Efo Kosi-Kaglo, has strongly recommended to Parliament to abolish trial by jury, since it does not normally ensure justice in certain criminal cases.

He said in most cases, the jurors lacked the necessary education and as such could not fully understand and follow the trial of suspected criminal,s some of whom were wrongly convicted.

Justice Kosi-Kaglo made the recommendation when members of the Parliamentary Committee on the Judiciary met judges, magistrates and members of staff of the Judicial Service in the Eastern Region in Koforidua on Friday.

Members of the committee, led by its Chairman, Mr Alfred Agbesi, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ashaiman, and the Ranking Member, Mr Emanuel Asamoah Owusu Ansah, who is the MP for Kwabre, were in the region to acquaint themselves with the challenges of the courts and the staff of the Judicial Service with the view to addressing them.

Justice Kosi-Kaglo, who sounded emotional in his presentation, said he had been compelled to give judgment on two separate cases which did not go down well with him because he had to follow the dictates of the jurors, who he said had little knowledge on the issues raised and could, therefore, not properly follow the trials.

He, therefore, asked Parliament to, as a matter of urgency, consider the abolition of trial by jury.

“In most cases, the jurors are not well educated or well informed to fully understand the legality of issues raised in court and as such are not able to properly follow the trial to enable them to take the right decision on suspected criminals, and since judges are bound to approve of their decisions, they just have to deliver judgment based on what the jurors think, which in some cases are wrong,” he stated.

Justice Kosi-Kaglo’s statement brought another High Court judge,  Justice Henry Kwofie, to his feet to state that some of the jurors were engaged for long periods and so they lost track of the evidence before the court, a development which, to him, was very dangerous, and called for a second look at the issue.

Mr Owusu Ansah, for his part, said in most cases it was ordinary workers in the offices who were not wanted by their heads of departments for one reason or another who were normally released to be jurors and promised that the committee would put the issue before Parliament to deal with it.

A member of the committee and former Deputy Attorney-General, Mr Osei Prempeh, said most Commonwealth countries still relied on the jury system to determine criminal cases and wondered whether it was the system that was bad or there was a problem with some of the jurors.

A Circuit Court judge, Barbara Tetteh Charway, said she was not happy with the frequent breakdown of vehicles which conveyed remand prisoners to and from court and those requiring mental observation and, therefore, asked the parliamentarians to see how best to address the issue.

Earlier, Mr Agbesi had explained that the main purpose of the visit was to find out the problems facing the courts and the members of staff of the Judicial Service in the region and advised the courts to resort to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to resolve minor disputes.

Welcoming the committee members, the Supervising High Court Judge for the Eastern Region, Justice G.S. Suurbaareh, enumerated the challenges facing the 35 courts in the region, including inadequate logistics and infrastructure, especially at the Asesewa and Nsawam courts, and the lack of residential accommodation for judges and magistrates.

He said although the assemblies were to help provide residential accommodation for judges and magistrates, most of them had turned a blind eye to it and called for an urgent solution to the problem.

The Eastern Regional Court Registrar, Mr Anthony Twumasi Ankrah, told the committee that allowances for staff of the Judicial Service which had been in arrears since April this year had been piecemeal, while no subvention for the region had been received this year, and called for the speedy resolution of the problem to enable the courts to operate effectively.

Source: Daily Graphic

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