Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo has threatened to close down all lower court complexes in the country that do not meet the specification of the Judicial Service of Ghana.
The CJ who has since 2017 been touring the country to assess the state of court houses, has so far observed a number of the buildings being used as lower court complexes were not in a good state.
To prove her resolve, she has given the Wassa East District Assembly in the Western Region up to February to upgrade its newly refurbished District Court building in the area which she said is too exposed.
Our correspondent Eric Adjei who has been following the CJ on her tour of some courts in the Region said Justice Akuffo was not happy about the state of the refurbished Wassa East District Court which she was to commission on Monday.
Justice Akuffo told officials of the District Assembly that the Registry of the court where essential documents and evidence are kept was “too exposed”; a situation she said could compromise those documents and evidence.
She said the public could have easy access to it to tamper court documents and or evidence being stored in the registry.
Also, the CJ said judge’s chamber, the payment office as well as the Registrar’s office lack confidentiality as they are also exposed to the public, noting the judge’s chamber should be such that one would have to go through somebody before gaining access to the judge.
Notwithstanding, she thanked the Assembly for its initiative, stating “We have already pointed out to the district chief executive the various shortcomings with this building.
She pointed out that the “Courts are more than the courtroom,” noting “when we say a court in the judicial service, it include all the services that are available at the premises including the courtroom.
“But there are other services that go on in the background; each of which has to have a particular character for us to be able serve the public as we are required to do,” she stated.
The DCE, Wilson Arthur said they have taken the concerns of the chief justice and would table it before the Assembly at their next meeting for a decision to be taken.
“I need to go back to the house and table it. The security committee will pass it and then we can begin to start the process to build a new on,” he said.
Mr. Arthur was however surprised the building, which he said they inherited and rfurbished, did not meet the specification of the Judicial Service.
“This one was built quite recently, we inherited it. When we came it was in bad state but we renovated it and furnished it and we thought that it was one of the best court houses in Ghana so when she [CJ] was coming I was expecting her to say that your place is better than a high court,” she said.
Situation at other courts
Meanwhile, at the Sekondi District Court A and B, our correspondent reported that the situation was no different as she expressed similar comments.
For the Court B in particular, the CJ did not like the arrangements in the court room, because where the lawyers’ section was closer to the public gallery and the dock.
At the Takoradi District Court, the Chief Justice said the place was not disability friendly, adding there was too much noise on the premises as well because it is located within the central business district.
“However, she mentioned that she liked where the court was located due to its easy accessibility and wouldn’t mind if another court is brought there,” Eric reported.