General News of Thursday, 19 July 2012
Source: Daily Graphic
Over Non Payment Of Allowance
Jurors at Kumasi High courts have withdrawn their services to protest the failure of the Judicial Service to pay their sitting allowances of GHc10 per day.
According to some of the jurors, since the legal year began in January, they had not been paid their allowances.
There are about 20 jurors in Kumasi who sit three times a week to adjudicate cases involving murder and manslaughter.
With about two weeks to end the legal year, the strike by the jurors is posing a challenge to the Attorney-General’s (A-G’s) Department in Kumasi, as it is now unable to pursue the prosecution of about 20 murder and manslaughter cases scheduled to be heard during this year’s criminal assizes.
Murder cases pending before the courts include that involving the former Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Ghana Journalists Association, Samuel Enin, who was shot at a drinking spot on February 9, 2007.
A source at the Judicial Service confirmed the strike in an interview but failed to give details.
Prosecutors have closed their cases in 10 of the listed cases, with the others due for addresses.
Witnesses from Accra, the north and other parts of the country who had travelled to Kumasi to be cross-examined on murder, manslaughter and robbery cases had to return disappointed when they learnt about the industrial action by the jurors.
Not even the intervention of the Registrar of the Ashanti Regional High Court, Mr Francis Gadzeah, that efforts were being made to address the concerns of the jurors could soften their hearts.
Expressing his frustration over the matter in an interview Tuesday, the Senior State Attorney in charge of the Ashanti Region, Mr William Kpobi, called on the authorities to do something about the situation to enable the judicial process to resume.
“Given the present state of affairs, we are helpless and the only remedy is that they (jurors) are paid, so that they come back to help in the administration of justice,” he said.
In Ghana’s legal system, criminal assizes takes precedence over all other matters.
This is because that is where serious criminal cases are tried.
In criminal assizes, jurors constitute the jury — a very important body of highly capable and well-trusted individuals — to decide the guilt or otherwise of the accused person and the judge is bound to enter judgement based on their verdict.
The judge cannot question the verdict of the jury. Jurors are, therefore, very important in the administration of justice.
Meanwhile, a lawyer (name withheld) has questioned the basis of the strike when, under the law, the judge could issue a bench warrant for the arrest of a juror who absents himself or herself from court without authority.
A State Attorney who briefed graphic.com.gh on the action of the jurors expressed concern over the issue.
He said the action by the jurors was seriously affecting the administration of justice at the High courts, explaining that the judges had no option but to adjourn cases that were about to be completed.
“About 10 cases involving murder and manslaughter that had been pending before the courts for some time were about to be completed but the action of the jurors has thrown everything overboard,” he said.
According to the State Attorney, “the legal year for 2012 ends on July 31, so cases pending before the High courts are receiving much attention, in the hope that they will be dealt with before the end of the legal year”.