The first court to be situated within the premises of a prison facility has been opened at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison in the Eastern Region.
The remand court, constructed at the cost of GH¢26,137, will exercise criminal jurisdiction conferred on all High Courts in Ghana.
The remand court judge will exercise jurisdiction as judge of the Circuit Court and a District Magistrate.
The commissioning of the court, attended by heads of the criminal justice system of the country, marks a turning point in the judicial service as the initiative demonstrates the commitment to rule of law and the enhancement of fair trial and prisoners’ rights under the 1992 Constitution.
The Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood, inaugurating the high court, said the establishment of the court is a major step to ensure that the guaranteed rights of prisoners are protected to give practical meaning to the ideals and principles contained in the United Nations Human Rights Charters and Conventions that Ghana is a signatory to.
‘This is in recognition of our nation’s commitment to the internationally accepted minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners,’ she said.
The Chief Justice further indicated that the court house will also be available for use in exceptional or deserving cases where it appears, in the interest of justice, that it would be more convenient to hear either a substantive matter than to move the prisoner, whether convicted or remanded, to the traditional court in Accra or Koforidua.
Matilda Baffour Awuah, Director General of the Prisons Service, said setting up the new court was a giant step towards securing the rights of prisoners.
According to her, over the years the judiciary has worked to reduce the number of remand prisoners in the country’s prisons with the establishment of the Justice For All Programme.
She said as a result of the programme which is aimed at quickening the trial of prisoners on remand, 2,538 have been tried, 624 have been discharged, 672 granted bail and 91 convicted of various criminal offences and serving appropriate jail terms.
She noted that in addition to the programme, the prisons service has formed a unit to look at remand cases.
She said the unit will follow up on remand cases to ensure the undue delay of offenders in prison without trial is reduced.
Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, spoke about the ordeal lawyers go through in court when their clients are unable to make it because of the unavailability of vehicles to transport prisoners.
She was therefore hopeful the new court, located a few meters from the prison, would help in the reduction of remand prisoners and facilitate their work as a ministry.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
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