Accra, June 19, GNA - Justice Sophia Abena Boafoa Akuffo, Presidential nominee for the position of Chief Justice said with enough resources, there would be a wide range of transformation and improvement to enhance quality delivery of justice in Ghana.
While strongly insist on the independence of the judiciary, Justice Akuffo, prayed for enough resources from the government to the realm, with the promise that “you see wonders (at the Judiciary) if the budgets are not cut.”
Her answer was in response to why budgets to the Judiciary should not be capped, when she appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament on for vetting.
The committee had set June 19, 2017 for the vetting of the Harvard trained lawyer, who turns 68 next December 20, but rescheduled the vetting to this week to avoid keeping the position vacant for long.
President Akufo-Addo in May announced Justice Akuffo as his choice of successor to Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood who retired on June 8, 2017.
Justice Akuffo would be the 13th Chief Justice in the history of the Republic of Ghana if passed, and she will be the second woman in that position.
According to the Chief Justice nominee, annual estimates on the resources to be provided by the Government to the Judiciary should not in any way be cut, but approved to ensure that adequate funds and resources were made available to the Judicial Service.
Among the wide range of transformation she spoke of were; improving the physical structures of the service, including the courts, adequate remuneration for judges and magistrates, capacity development, and training of paralegals for the “Justice for All Programme.”
She indicated that she was concerned about her integrity, and also passionate about the development and stability of Ghana, stressing the need for systems to work.
She cautioned that the breakdown of the judicial system in any country, would wreak chaos for the nation.
“I am extremely passionate about everything to do with Ghana, and I am extremely proud of the strides we have made under the current constitution. It has its legal issues and problems but we have managed to work with it and hopefully the part that needs amendments will one day be amended and we will move on to the next level.
“The other thing I will like to say is that I believe that even if in our endeavours, whether in the work place or in our personal lives, we cannot hit total perfection, we can strive to reach it, so, in terms of my attitude to work, I have always believed that one must always ask the question: ‘Is this as good as it gets or can it get better?’ And if it can get better, how is that to be done?”
She added: “Because of some of my past employment experiences, I have also come to believe in systems, in having proper protocols, proper procedures, spelt out operations systems, so that whether some individual is there or not what needs to be done gets done because all the wisdom is not on somebody’s head and if somebody suddenly leaves an employment life must go on as though the person is still around.”
Justice Akufo distanced herself from mob justice and said effective and quality delivery of justice in the courts would help address the growing incidents ‘mob justice’ in the country.
The other side of mob justice is the delay of justice. “The other side of justice delayed is justice denied, is that justice hurried is justice buried.
“It is being able to strike that balance, that is the area of concern for the judicial system and for the judiciary, because so long as there is mob justice, it means something is not going right. At least, we in the judiciary will do our optimal to ensure that we are not the cause of mob justice,” she added.
The notorious phenomenon is gaining some currency in the country, but the nominee, who said she was appointed to the Supreme Court, with Mr Justice William Atugubah, on the same day in November 1995, promised to work to ensure that as much as it depended on her outfit, mob justice was minimised.
When asked her position on death penalty, she implied that the statute books would have to determine that.
“That’s what is in the books,” she said.
Justice Akuffo however declined to comment on the Montie Three case, on which she was the presiding judge.
She said she was uncomfortable commenting delivered justice, explaining that “ I am not comfortable about being called upon to justify a judgment that we have delivered, but in general terms, concerning the scope of the exercising of the contempt power or labelling something to be contemptuous, I believe that each case will dictate the outcome.”
During her judgment at the time, said the owners were careless in their submissions to the court, as they appeared to have little or no interest in what transpired on their radio station.
She was of the view that media owners would take keen interest in what is published in the media outlets, and in an answer to question on the suit of the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) against the National Media Commission (NMC), the Justice, explaining some aspects of the panel’s reasoning, said they considered aspects of the NMC’s regulations to be too broad and only asked them to return to the court with specifics.
“The balance is that, in the matter against the media commission, regulations were being made which were over-broad without specificity and carried all kinds of sanctions, therefore, what we were calling on the commission to do was to go back to the drawing board.”
In a unanimous decision in November 2016, a seven-member panel, led by Justice Akuffo, held that certain regulations in the NMC (Content Standards) Regulations 2015 (L.I. 2224) amounted to censorship and contravened Article 162 Clause (4) of the 1992 Constitution.
Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) had dragged the NMC and the Attorney-General to court over aspects of the regulation.
GIBA claimed that the regulations were an affront to freedom of speech and the rights and freedoms granted to the media under Article 162 of the 1992 Constitution.
She said NMC’s Content law was struck down by the Supreme Court because it was not specific, and that the regulations being made by the media regulator was “overly-broad” and created constitutional problems.
She said the apex court's ruling was for the law to be made clearer to elicit the right response from media houses.
“What we were calling on the Commission was to go back to the drawing board and become more specific,” she said.
The NMC’s law, which was to compel media houses to submit their programmes to the Commission for approval, was suspended following a ruling by the apex court last year.
In the law, media houses that default in the submission of their programme guides to the Commission would pay a fine or serve between two and five-year jail term.
Justice Akuffo was against calls for the Ghana Law School to be scrapped.
“What happens in the universities at the faculties of law is that, they educate people academically on the law as a theory – on knowledge of the law” but “the Ghana School of Law is a professional training facility. That is where the theories learnt in classrooms are supposed to be taught from a more practical point of view and that is how it has been,” she explained.
She expressed her interest in effective quality justice because it covered the assurance that the public has that when they come to the hall of justice they will receive or access justice.
“There is still a lot of work to do that is one of the continuous areas I am willing to work on,” she said.
Mr Justice Atugubah, Prof Justice Date-Baah, Mr Justice Allan Brobbey, some Supreme Court Judges, members of the Ghana Bar Association, Traditional Rulers and members of the 1967 Year Group of the Wesley Girls High School were present to give moral support to the Chief Justice nominee.