Justice Delayed …Justice Denied

“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a legal maxim meaning that if legal redress is available for a party that has suffered some injury, but is not forthcoming in a timely fashion, it is effectively the same as having no redress at all.

“This principle is the basis for the right to a speedy trial and similar rights which are meant to expedite the legal system, because it is unfair for the injured party to have to sustain the injury with little hope for resolution”’ – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Honourable Chief Justice, Her Ladyship Georgina Theodora Wood, must have had this maxim at the back of her mind when she decentralised the appeal court system to the regions.

In the event, she set up three Courts of Appeal: one at Cape Coast for Central and Western Regions, another at Koforidua for the Eastern and Volta Regions and the third at Kumasi for the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.

Her Ladyship‘s action saved litigants millions in legal fees and both litigants and lawyers possible broken legs could arise from their trips from the regions to argue their cases before the appellate lords in Accra.

Now the courts are forcibly closing down: In the front-page lead story of Tuesday, June 17, the closure of the Cape Coast Court was reported while today’s Chronicle reports the same misfortune from Kumasi. In all probability, the story is the same in Koforidua.

Lawyers have been notified by their leaders to in turn inform their clients that henceforth all appeal cases would be held in Accra as was previously the case. The regional appeal courts may be likened to outposts of the Court of Appeal in Accra, as they are not yet fully fledged, the judges go from Accra to sit for a specified number of days and then return to Accra.

Consequently, they need to be accommodated for the duration of their stay and paid sitting allowances. However, the Judicial Service claims it does not have the means to fund the needs of the regional Courts of Appeal Judges. And why? Reportedly,because government or the Ministry of Finance has not released the subvention for the Judiciary, since March this year.

The Chronicle is horrified that government’s acts of commission and omission has allowed retrogression to obstruct the progressive innovations that Her Ladyship Chief Justice Wood has introduced. The other day, we heard of Parliament being broke, today it is the Judiciary; whose turn would it be next?

Whatever challenges the government may be facing economically, there are some non-negotiables that money must be found for at all cost – national security, the police and the courts, to name but a few. Even if it has to squeeze it out of stone, as some people put it.

Imagine the costs that litigants from the two upper regions endure in order to be able to appeal or defend appeal cases in Accra. Having an appeal court in Kumasi, most likely, halves their cost. The implication of the current closure of the Kumasi Court of Appeal is that those litigants who cannot afford to come down to Accra are in effect denied the justice that they deserve.

The Chronicle appeals to Chief Justice Wood to go the whole hog in her decentralisation drive, when the good times return, as they definitely will in the future. Instead of outposts that the regional appeal courts are now, they should become established duty posts with the necessary Appeal Court Judges resident in Cape Coast, Koforidua and Kumasi.

The Appeal Court is still functioning in Accra because the Judges are resident here and do not have to be paid accommodation and outstation allowances. President John Dramani Mahama must wake up now. He should not merely direct but ensure that the Judicial subvention is released today.

That is the only path of honour!