Benefits for dismissed judges raises eyebrows – Former AG

Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Joseph Ayikoi Otoo, says the decision to pay end of service benefits to four of the 20 dismissed lower court judges questions the commitment in fighting judicial corruption in the country.

He said although he appreciates the recommendations of the five-member panel that looked into the allegation of corruption against the lower court judges, the payment of benefits to the four judges raises eyebrows.

“When somebody is dismissed, that person loses his benefits. So when you’re removed with benefits it raises eyebrows, people would want to find out why,” he told TV3’s Godfred Tanam in an interview.

The Judicial Council on Monday dismissed the 20 magistrates and Circuit Court judges who were named in the scandalous judicial corruption uncovered by ace investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas.

Four of the judges who showed remorse for their actions and apologised to Ghanaians when they appeared before the Justice Sophia Adinyira Committee,  will receive their entitlements while the other 16 have been sacked without any benefit.

The 20 lower court judges were found guilty of “stated misbehaviour” under Article 151[1] of the country’s constitution.

But commenting on the decision of the Council, Mr Otoo said “If it is to fight corruption, then you’d rather want to send a signal that when you do  this sort of thing, you cannot benefit from it but as it were, the person is benefiting because he’s done the wrong thing and he’s being paid his entitlement. So to the extent that we are fighting corruption, it raises eyebrows”.

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Commenting on whether the dismissed judges could now practice as lawyers he said that will be dependent on the decision of the General Legal Council which will have to decide the kind of sanctions to be meted out to them.

“They’re removed from office as judges and magistrates but they remain lawyers so the question is whether the General Legal Council disciplinary committee would also want to discipline them.”

He said the Council’s Disciplinary Committee could recommend the names of the dismissed judges to be struck from the roll of the country’s lawyers, in which case they cannot practice as lawyers.

Anas in September this year released a video documentary on the investigation which showed more than 100 judicial staff including court clerks and 34 judges at the country’s High Courts, District and Magistrate courts taking bribes from litigants to compromise justice delivery in cases before the various courts.

The three-hour edited video, which is the result of a two-year painstaking investigation into the judiciary by the award winning investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, triggered a number of law suit against him, his Tiger Eye PI investigation team and other individuals.

Some of the High Court judges indicted in the corruption quagmire initially filed a motion in a bid to stop the public screening of the video at the Accra International Conference Centre but that failed.

But that was just the beginning of a number of suits to come. Currently, Anas is caught in a legal web with some of the judges, including Justice UP Derry who has filed multiple cases from the High Court to the Supreme Court.

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