The annual forum creates the avenue for stakeholders in the administration of justice to deliberate on key issues in the justice sector and how they can work to enhance the efficiency of justice delivery in Ghana. It also serves as a feedback mechanism for the Service, where it gets to know the concerns of the public, in order to strategize to improve its service delivery. It further provides an opportunity for the Service to disseminate information to court users and the general public on its operations to engender greater transparency and accountability.
This year’s forum brought together stakeholders from various fields: Justices of the High Court, Judges of the Circuit Court and Magistrates, chiefs, queen mothers and other traditional rulers, officers from local authorities, Assembly Members, NGO’s (POS Foundation, IDEG, AWLA), and Persons Living with Disabilities (PWDs). The others were Religious Leaders, Representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, Regional Bar, Security Services (Immigration, Fire, Police, and Military), Heads of Tertiary Educational Institutions and Staff of the Judicial Service.
A key feature of the Chief Justice’s Forum over the years has been breakout sessions where stakeholders are put into groups, with each given a sub-theme to deliberate on and give recommendations. The recommendations that come for each of these groups are collated and serve as primary data for the Judiciary and the Judicial Service in policy formulation and strategic plans.
The pandemic brought a lot of challenges to justice delivery in the country, and per a directive from the Chief Justice, His Lordship Justice Anin Yeboah, majority of courts gave long adjournments. However, there was the significant need to ensure that justice delivery was not brought to an abrupt end, hence the forum offered a good opportunity for the Service to seek the views of stakeholders on the necessary interventions to institute in order to mitigate the impact of the virus so the Service continues delivering on its mandate.
After deliberations, the following are a number of the recommendations that were presented by each Group:
Group One: ‘The role of central/local governments as a major stakeholder in expanding accessibility to justice delivery in the Bono region”:
- Local government should give priority to the creation of courts. The creation of courts should be a collaborative effort between the Assembly, chiefs and the Judicial Service.
- The central government must first consider courthouses before opening up a new district or both should be done simultaneously
- The central government must pay attention to budgetary allocation for the judiciary. Just like there is a “Year of Roads” there can be a “Year of Courts” to ensure that more courts are built in a year.
Group Two: “Eliminating human capital issues as major roadblocks to justice delivery accessibility in the Region:
In terms of quality of staff, the recommendations included -
- The training needs of all existing staff must be identified and doe accordingly.
- Performance monitoring to ensure staff meet their performance targets;
Considering general organizational issues –
- Train all Judges and staff on human resource management and administration.
- Place suggestion boxes at vantage points in courts across the country and encourage the public to drop in their complaints and suggestions.
Group Three: “Introduction of the e-justice system, its extension, efficiency and sustainability requirements:
- There should be sensitization programmes for judges, staff and the general public on the e-justice concept. These programmes should be funded with a portion of internally generated funds which should be reserved for such purposes.
- The provision of relevant IT equipment for Judges and key staff involved in such training programmes to guarantee a hands-on approach to training.
Group Four: “Digitization of justice delivery service and the possible effects on justice accessibility at the local level:
- The expansion of internet services to all courts across the country. This should be in collaboration with the telecommunications companies to ensure the e-justice system works in every court.
- Digitizing justice delivery at the local level will take some time due to unreliable internet services hence there must be a complimentary effort between the digital and manual processes in the interim.
Group 5: “Ensuring a sustained and COVID-19 protocols complaint courts; the role of local government authorities and other organizations:
- Strict enforcement of all COVID-19 protocols in all courts across the country, with emphasis on court users wearing their nose masks throughout court proceedings.
- Encourage chiefs and political parties’ representatives to limit the number of people who follow them to court. This is to ensure that the rules of social distancing can be enforced due to the limited space in most court rooms.
The Forum was well attended and participants very much involved in it, with many asking questions and making useful inputs, which will go a long way in helping the Service shape its future.