Private legal practitioner lawyer Maurice Ampaw has confirmed the assertion that Ghana’s judicial system is ”expensive” and only for the rich and powerful.
Ghana’s judicial system he opined is for sale and the poor are not fortunate when it comes to the court system in the country.
He was reacting to the 2019 Afrobarometer report on the judicial system.
The Afrobarometre survey by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) says 85 per cent of Ghanaians perceive judges and magistrates as corrupt.
“More than eight in 10 Ghanaians (85%) say at least ‘some’ judges and magistrates are corrupt, including 40% who say this about ‘most’ or ‘all’ of these court officials”, the survey said, while “fewer than half of respondents say they trust courts ‘a lot’ (16%) or ‘somewhat’ (32%)”.
“While most Ghanaians endorse the legitimacy of the courts, they also see court officials as corrupt and untrustworthy, and believe people are treated unequally under the law. The findings show that among those who had contact with the justice system during the previous year, many rate the system as high on corruption and low on fairness and transparency”, the report said.
According to the report, only one in 20 Ghanaians (5%) say they had contact with the formal judicial system during the previous year.
The most important reasons why Ghanaians think people do not use the formal judicial system are that it is too expensive (cited by 54% of respondents), that the system favours the rich and powerful (31%), and that legal proceedings take a long time before judgment is given (31%).
Among respondents who had contact with the judicial system during the previous year: About half (52%) rate the level of corruption in the judicial system as “high” or “very high.”
Fewer than one in three rate the judicial system favourably (with “high” or “very high” ratings) on independence (31%), professionalism (30%), fairness (21%), responsiveness (18%), and transparency (16%).
Reacting to the findings, lawyer Ampaw said ”when you are rich, you will not get justice in Ghana. The justice system is expensive. Ghanaians are unable to afford filing fees and legal fees. So the poor cannot afford justice in Ghana”.
He bemoaned the lack of resources at Legal Aid and accused successive governments of failing to allocate enough resources for their work.
He has suggested for the state to initiate a policy that will force all legal firms in Ghana to deal with some amount of pro bono cases before their licenses are renewed annually.
Meanwhile, the perception that judges are corrupt he said is not surprising due to the Anas judiciary expose, the attacks on judges by politicians when they rule on cases.
Lawyer Ampaw said it will take a long time for the judiciary to purge itself from the perception of being corrupt.