From Issah Alhassan, Kumasi
THE ATTORNEY-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu, has once again mounted a strong defense against criticisms that her office was not doing much to win legal battles for the government, attributing the incessant legal trounces to Ghana’s complicated legal system.
Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu said those who accuse her office for being responsible for government’s inability to win cases, especially against former government officials, have failed to critically take into consideration the country’s complex legal system.
“Sometimes, I find it extremely funny when people blame the Attorney-General for cases lost in court, you see, the issue is not as simple as people see it”, she said.
The office of the Attorney-General has consistently come under strong criticism from some of the country’s legal gurus and supporters of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), following its failure to successfully prosecute past government officials.
A former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Kpegah, is one of the strong critics of the Attorney-General, and was on record to have called on President John Evans Atta Mills to sack her for incompetence. But, Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu contends that her detractors were getting it wrong, because she was not the one to be blamed.
The Attorney-General lamented in an interview with The Chronicle that even though she shares the sentiments of party supporters, and others alike, who believe that wrongdoers must be punished, they must realise that it cannot be done with the use of force or draconian law.
According to her, her office sometimes does not get the opportunity to even peruse dockets and files of cases being prosecuted, and only get to know the outcome in the media.
“Sometimes, you don’t even get any hint that such cases are due for court, or in the case where you get the information, the advice you give are not taken,” she argued.
Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu further noted: “Sometimes, prosecutors forward cases to our office, and we tell them to gather enough evidence, because a particular evidence does not support the charges, they go and never come back, only to hear that the case has been struck out, and the A-G would have to take the blame, it is unfortunate.”
The Attorney-General stressed on the need for a total overhaul of the country’s legal system to enable the effective prosecution and speedy adjudication of cases in the various courts in Ghana.
Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu said problems like multiple adjournments of cases, slow processes of non-bailable crimes, amongst others, were issues that must be addressed if the country’s legal system could be improved.
She said there ought to be a multi-faceted approach to tackling the flaws in the legal system, stressing her Ministry was doing everything possible to rectify the anomalies. “We sometimes feel worried about the backlog of cases in court, there are about 1,400 suspects languishing in Nsawam Prison alone, on non-bailable crimes such as rape and murder, other prisons are also choked with suspects whose cases continue to see adjournments,” she wailed.
The Attorney-General further lamented that many courts in the country continue to apply the manual system of case documentation, and this, according to her, does not facilitate the process of justice in the country.
She, however, pointed out that with the automation of the courts and the introduction of case management system, things would improve by next year.
On the decision by the A-G’s office to handle all criminal prosecutions, the Minister said people must not misconstrue it as a loss of faith in the police, stressing that even though police officers in the country are doing a yeoman’s job, they must be allowed to concentrate on their field as law enforcers.
She noted that crime in these modern days has become very complex, and as such “criminals are adopting various strategies which require that we critically review the nature of investigation and approach to criminal prosecution.”
The A-G noted that crimes like Cyber fraud, locally known as ‘Sakawa’, and other forms of crimes have become very complex, “which the police sometimes find difficult to handle, and that is why we are also trying to support them.”
She hinted that the programme would begin on a pilot basis in Accra next year, before it would be rolled out to other regions, because of limited staff strength.