History of The Supreme Court Building
The foundation stone of the Supreme Court was laid on the 16th day of August, 1929 by the late Sir Philip Crampton Smyly Kt. LLB., Chief Justice of the then Gold Coast (now Ghana). The Governor at that time was Sir Ransford Slater.
The court building was surrounded on the North by the then Gold Coast Hospital (now Government Girls School), on the South by the Roger Club (now occupied by Ghana Commercial Bank) and the District Commissioner’s Court, then known as “Loloi Court” and on the West by the District Treasury Department and the Old Polo Grounds.
After independence, a statute of the unknown warrior which stood on the lawn behind the District Commissioner’s Court was removed to the Black Star Square (now the Independence Square).
On its far side was an open space where Cable and Wireless had transmission poles (now occupied by the Accra Community Centre). To the East stood the Town Hall now known as Old Parliament House and on its West now stands the Presbyterian Church Office, which was the car park for the courts.
The Supreme Court building was constructed on solid concrete from its foundations to the third floor. The sand and stone used in the construction were thoroughly washed before they were used. Some of the walls are 12 inches to 18 inches thick. The roof was made of iron, wood and tiles. The decorative pillars were all imported.
The building stands on concrete pillars and has a basement which can be entered through a small door on its western side. The pillars have been sealed from the outside with concrete material hence one cannot notice the existence of a basement.
MECHANISATION OF COURT PROCEEDINGS
The journey towards the mechanisation of court proceedings began several decades ago. The first tape recorder was introduced in 1955. It was used in recording judgments and rulings of some Judges who were conversant with dictation. Every morning, two stenographers would take the recorder to the Judges and enquire from them if they had something to be recorded. The recordings were transcribed, typed and given to the Judges for their signature. This did not last long.
In 1961, a set of recording machines were bought and three court stenographers were employed. People marveled at the speed and efficiency with which the stenographers tackled their job, but this adventure did not last long also, as all the three left the Service for greener pastures. Some of the cases they worked on were the treason trial of Tawiah Adamafio, Ako Adjei and others, and Teiko Tagoe and others.
Another attempt at mechanising court proceedings was made in 1970, where sets of recording machines were bought for some of the High Courts in Accra and in the Regional capitals. These machines once again broke down. One Judge in Accra made another attempt to introduce the recording of proceedings in his court on his return from a tour of the U.S with some others. He bought three small tape recorders himself. Work went on smoothly for some time, but on his promotion to the Court of Appeal, the facility folded up.
In 1958, when the Ghana School of Law was established to train Lawyers locally, it was temporarily housed in the Supreme Court Building. The School used the two halls in the library for classes, and the Court of Appeal Registry as their Library. The School moved to its present site in 1962.
The Supreme Court building after its inauguration in 1929 did not receive any major renovation until 2016. As has already been noted, previous works had focused mainly on the internal and external painting of the Courtrooms, Registry, and repair of minor roof leakages. Although the building was structurally sound, the interior functionality fell short of the required international standards of a modern Supreme Court.
This problem was magnified after the construction of the ultra-modern Law Court Complex in 2015 which accommodates all the High Courts in Accra. The state-of-the-art facilities at these High Courts meant that the Supreme Court building which also houses both the Criminal and Civil Divisions of the Court of Appeal needed a major face-lift as well, to reflect its role in the justice delivery system, and to provide a modern working environment for Superior Court Judges and Staff of the highest Court of the land.
Work on the renovation of the Supreme Court building started in September, 2016 and was due for completion for a period of two (2) months. However, because of timelines for the procurement of off-shore items (mainly ICT and furniture) and other variations, the project was completed in December, 2016.
Due to the high cost of renovating the entire building coupled with the Judicial Service’s budgetary constraints, the scope of works was restricted to cover builders work i.e. walling, flooring, ceiling, glazing etc., interior décor i.e. furniture, carpeting, art works etc., electro-mechanical services i.e. air conditioning, lighting, power, plumbing etc., ICT installation i.e. equipment, Public Address System, Local Area Network, Recording Systems etc. and minor roof repairs. All these modifications were done while preserving the Victorian architecture of the building.