Chief Justice (CJ), Sophia Akuffo, has threatened to close down all lower court complexes in the country that do not meet the specification of the Judicial Service of Ghana (JSG).
The CJ, who has since 2017 been touring the country to assess the state of courthouses, had so far observed a number of the buildings being used as lower court complexes were not in a good state.
To prove her determination, she has given the Wassa East District Assembly in the Western Region up to February to upgrade its newly refurbished district court building in the area which she said was too exposed.
The CJ who was not happy about the state of the refurbished Wassa East District Court which she commissioned last Monday did not mince words when she re-echoed her resolve to close down some courts which were in bad state.
Justice Akuffo told officials of the district assembly that the registry of the court where essential documents and evidence were kept was “too exposed,” a situation, she said, could compromise those documents and evidence.
She said the public could have easy access to it to tamper court documents and or evidence being stored in the registry.
Also, the CJ said judge’s chamber, the payment office as well as the registrar’s office lack confidentiality as they were also exposed to the public, noting that the judge’s chamber should be such that one would have to go through somebody before gaining access to the judge.
Notwithstanding, she thanked the assembly for its initiative, stating that “we have already pointed out to the district chief executive the various shortcomings with this building.”
She pointed out that the, “courts are more than the courtroom,” noting “when we say a court in the judicial service, it includes all the services that are available at the premises including the courtroom.
“But there are other services that go on in the background; each of which has to have a particular character for us to be able to serve the public as we are required to do.”
The DCE, Wilson Arthur, said they had taken the concerns of the CJ and would table it before the assembly at their next meeting for a decision to be taken.
“I need to go back to the house and table it. The security committee will pass it and then we can begin to start the process to build a new on,” he said.
Mr Arthur was, however, surprised the building, which he said they inherited and refurbished did not meet the specification of the Judicial Service.
“This one was built quite recently, we inherited it. When we came it was in a bad state but we renovated it and furnished it and we thought that it was one of the best courthouses in Ghana so when she [CJ] was coming I was expecting her to say that your place is better than a high court,” she said.
Meanwhile, the situation at the Sekondi District Court A and B was no different as she expressed similar comments.
For Court B in particular, the CJ did not like the arrangements in the courtroom, because the lawyers’ section was closer to the public gallery and the dock.
At the Takoradi District Court, the chief justice said the place was not disability friendly, adding there was too much noise on the premises as well because it is located within the central business district.
However, she mentioned that she liked where the court was located due to its easy accessibility and wouldn’t mind if another court is brought there.
Story: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH
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