REMARKS BY THE HONOURABLE LADY CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA, JUSTICE GERTRUDE SACKEY TORKORNOO, AT THE OPENING OF A 2-DAY SYMPOSIUM  ON CYBERCRIME AND ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE FOR 40 HIGH AND CIRCUIT COURT JUDGES IN THE SOUTHERN SECTOR ORGANISED BY THE COMMONWEALTH SECRETARIAT IN COLLABORATION WITH THE JUDICIAL TRAINING INSTITUTE ON Thursday, 26th OCTOBR, 2023 AT LA PALM ROYAL BEACH HOTEL, ACCRA
 

 

 

I am happy to join you here today for this important event. I want to begin by expressing my deep gratitude to the Commonwealth Secretariat for their invaluable support in organising this significant event. I also want to thank each and every one for coming. Thank you.

 

The subject of our symposium today is both timely and significant. In a world in which we are increasingly relying on the internet for more and more of our basic and professional functions, security online is and will become an even bigger issue for all of us. As we revel in the countless benefits and conveniences brought about by technological advancement, we are also confronted by the pervasive and ever-evolving challenges posed by cyberspace. The importance of cyber security in safeguarding our way of life, the economy and the administration of justice cannot be overstated. The pace at which technology evolves is both remarkable and daunting. Our legal systems, procedures and expertise must adapt to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of the digital realm. That is why this symposium is so important.

 

Between 2016 and 2018, documented cybercrime cases in the country resulted in losses exceeding a staggering $200 million. During this period, the nation witnessed a disconcerting surge in cybercrimes, as the reported cases surged from 116 in 2016 to 412 in 2017, and the numbers further skyrocketed to 558 in 2018. As of the third quarter in 2022, the Cyber Security Authority had recorded a total of 9,769 contacts, of which 431 have been identified as actual cyber security incidents. In 2022, the United States Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that the most prevalent type of cybercrime was phishing, affecting an alarming 300,000 individuals. Additionally, nearly 59,000 cases of personal data breaches were reported during the same year. These figures reveal the pervasive and evolving nature of cybercrimes, highlighting that they transcend geographical boundaries and affect individuals on a global scale.

 

Cybercrime has now firmly established itself as a pressing concern that judicial systems worldwide, including Ghana's, must confront in the years ahead. As technology continues to advance, these threats will persist, necessitating a concerted effort to strengthen cyber security measures, raise public awareness and establish robust legal frameworks to combat this ever-evolving menace. The fight against cybercrime demands a proactive approach, international collaboration and constant adaptation to the shifting tactics of cybercriminals to safeguard the digital landscape.

 

This symposium recognizes the pivotal role Judges must play in the era of cyber security. We, as Judges, are tasked with upholding the rule of law and ensuring that justice prevails. We must thoroughly understand the place of the digital era in our work as adjudicators, recognize that the rule of law extends into cyberspace. We have seen numerous cases of data breaches, identity theft and cyber-attacks that not only harm individuals but also undermine trust in institutions. These are not just abstract threats. They are real, and they demand our attention.

 

As Judges, we have a unique role to play in addressing these challenges. To do this effectively in the digital age, we must understand the nuances of cybercrimes, appreciate the technical complexities involved, and interpret laws governing cyberspace with knowledge and jurisprudence. Cyber threats are transnational in nature, and no single entity or jurisdiction can combat them in isolation. We must actively engage in sharing information, expertise and best practices with our counterparts both within and beyond our borders. The Commonwealth Secretariat's support for this symposium is a testament to the strength of international cooperation.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to note that this symposium also presents a unique opportunity for us to delve into the realm of electronic evidence in the context of our judicial system. Ghana has been actively taking steps to modernise its legal framework, recognizing the pivotal role of electronic evidence in contemporary legal proceedings. A key legislation is the Electronic Transactions Act, 2008 (Act 772), which laid the foundation for the admissibility of electronic records in our courts.

Nevertheless, as we gather here today, it is imperative to acknowledge that while the legal framework exists, the intricate details of its practical application requires our collective appreciation of how to properly interpret them. This symposium is a platform for us to examine, discuss and refine our understanding of electronic evidence within the contours of Ghana's legal landscape.

 

Indeed, we stand at a crucial juncture where we have the opportunity to harness the power of the digital age to reshape and enhance our judicial processes. The recent past has demonstrated the immense potential of digital tools and technologies. They enabled us to adapt and continue our vital work in the face of the unprecedented challenges posed by the global pandemic.

 

In this era of technological innovation, we must seize the occasion to leverage digital tools in our legal procedures. The potential benefits are significant. By incorporating these tools, we can revolutionise the way we conduct legal proceedings, leading to increased efficiency and a reduction in the backlog of cases that has plagued our system for far too long.

What's more, by embracing the digital age, we ensure more effective accessibility of justice in our country. We help to ensure that justice is no longer a privilege reserved for the few who can move and bear higher costs but becomes more readily accessible to all citizens. Moreover, our approach can extend its reach to non-resident individuals who find themselves requiring dispute resolutions within our jurisdiction.

 

While we are considering the unique enclave of cybercrimes and the principles needed to effectively manage electronic evidence, I wish to engage all Judges in the following discussion.

 

Let us throw our learning scope with regards to electronic evidence wide, as we focus on evidence required to establish cybercrimes.

 

Let us appreciate that the issues of E-Law now stretch to virtually every arena of life that humanity is engaged in. E-commerce and trade, E-contracts, IP of software, hardware, licensing regimes, E-torts etc. Judges must develop

  • New evaluation skills with appreciation of the landscape of E-law
  • New working skills – Ability to move away from technophobia. Manage working in E-space with E-communities, communication, writing and leadership skills in E-space.

 

When does a court’s jurisdiction over a show organised virtually with collaborators from ten different countries arise? How do you calculate damages and other penalties? Are the old age principles that undergirded the grant of discretionary remedies still relevant in activity conducted online? Can you give injunctions on the basis of established principles?

 

Appellate Jurisdiction of High Court – Judicial Review

Since we are the ultimate interpreters and appliers of law and so shapers of it, I ask that you guide your learning with engagement, development of hypothesis, cross evaluation of all aspects of relevant law and keen awareness of the intersectionality of law. I am looking forward to our developing a strong and large faculty on electronic evidence out of this seminar. A faculty that will assist all our colleagues – higher and lower – on all critical scopes of the subject of E-law, cyber activity, virtual training and digitalisation of justice delivery.

Please do not hesitate to let the Director of JTI know which area of law you would like to participate in curriculum and faculty development.

 

Do not think that any area is too small a slice or too large a scope. A training strategy that provides for curriculum development, faculty development and as broad a range of orientation, training and other capacity building opportunities that every member of the Judiciary needs will soon be done. I look forward to the Judicial Service of Ghana and the Judiciary of Ghana becoming the center of knowledge and learning that we ought to be, and the Judicial Training Institute becoming a Regional Center of Excellence. Online Masters in E-law for as many Judges as possible.

 

As I conclude these brief remarks, I urge all of you to actively participate and engage in the symposium's discussions, share your knowledge and engage in meaningful dialogue. Together, we can ensure that justice is effectively delivered in this digital society. The challenges may be formidable, but so should be our commitment to upholding the rule of law.

 

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the participants, the organizers, and, in particular, the Commonwealth Secretariat, for their unwavering commitment to enhancing cyber security within the judicial system. Let this symposium be a beacon of hope, lighting our path as we navigate the complex terrain of cyberspace to protect the ideals of justice, fairness and the rule of law.

 

Thank you, and may our deliberations be fruitful.

 

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