Chief Justice Picks 8 Courts For Shift System

…Initiative To Reduce Backlog of Cases and Improve Efficiency

By; Gifty Arthur

The Chief Justice, Gertrude Sackey Torkorno, has introduced court shift system in the judiciary, beginning with some selected courts to improve access to justice delivery in the country, as well as reduce the backlog of cases in the specified courts.

The initiative, which is set to start on March 25, 2024, would be rolled out on pilot basis. Per the directive, the morning shift will run from 8:30am to 1:30 pm, while the afternoon session, will start from 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm.

In a directive issued to staff of the judicial service, the programme will be held in seven courts in the Greater Accra region and one in Eastern region.

The eight selected courts are; Adentan High Court 1 and 2, Amasaman High Court 1, Weija Circuit Court, La District Court, Teshie District Court, Madina District Courts A&B – all in the Greater Accra region, and the Nsawam High Court in the Eastern region.

The Chief Justice’s directive, sighted by The Anchor and dated March 14, explained that, “The rationale for the Court Shift System stems from the fact that, findings from a physical count of dockets undertaken in all Courts nationwide demonstrated that a number of identified Courts have huge caseloads with some in excess of 600 pending cases”.

Signed by the Judicial Secretary, Justice Cyra Pamela C. A. Koranteng, the Chief Justice expressed the hope that the implementation Court Shift System, will reduce the backlog of cases in the specified courts, improve accessibility to justice for citizens by offering flexible court hours that accommodate diverse schedules, and enhance the overall effectiveness of the judicial system.

She explained that, the programme was designed to “optimizing the use of existing court resources to reduce the volume of cases before the Courts.”

Imitative Lauded

Meanwhile, a private legal practitioner Martin Kpebu, has lauded the Chief Justice for this initiative.

According to the outspoken social commentator, this is something that is practiced in countries like Singapore and the United Kingdom to deal with backlogs of cases in the courts.

In his view, the measure by the Chief Justice, will help increase confidence in the courts system by litigants and also help workers who have not chance to follow their cases in court afforded the opportunity to personally pursue their cases after work.

“This is absolutely important. What it does is that is that it is going to make justice system more accessible because more people will have their cases heard and also let’s not forget people who go to court are often in pain because they want their grievances investigated by the courts and thereby resolve so the more there is a delay the worse their grievances become so the Chief Justice Torkornoo should be commended for this effort.

And I see this as part of the 24-hour economy that you hear John Mahama talk about. And I have seen this kind of practice in Singapore about seven year ago, yes I saw in Singapre seven years ago and I saw judges sitting after 6 p.m. because the whole idea was that workers should be allowed to go to work and after work now go to court to build their cases that is to say those workers who couldn’t get permission from their employers to go to court during working hours I mean day time.

So, what Justice Torkornoo has done is commendable in American too they have after ‘hours court’ so it means that Ghana is joining other league of nations that are increasing access to court the Constitution envisages it”, he said in an interview with TV3 on Saturday March 16.

He said the Shift System by the courts is going to deter people from using other means to seek justice elsewhere due to delay, to stay with the courts for justice.

“As I said earlier, when the cases delay, people take their grievances elsewhere so once these backlogs will be cleared quickly, then people will have their grievances resolved quickly and thereby increase their confidence in the justice system. Not too long ago, the UK were also taking such measures to clear the backlogs of cases that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic so it is absolutely crucial that the Chief Justice is taking measure to increase confidence for the Judicial System”, he added.

Mr Kpebu, also prayed Mrs Torkornoo, to design the Shift System in such a way that it does not conflict with lawyers whose routines maybe affected by this pilot programme.

He also asked that, a virtual hearing also be introduced into the justice delivery system so that lawyers can still be part of cases where they may not be available physically for hearing.

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