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General News of Wednesday, 13 August 2003

Source: GNA

Law School to train Career Magistrates

Accra, Aug. 13, GNA - The Ghana Law School will in October this year begin a two-year programme for non-lawyers to be trained as Career Magistrates to occupy vacant positions in district courts.

The programme, which would start with 30 graduates with a minimum of three years working experience will be sponsored by the government. Mr Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah, Judicial Secretary, who said this at a press briefing in Accra on Wednesday however, indicated that successful candidates would be made to sign a bond for a period of five years after completion.

He said, the programme, which was in accordance of the Court Amendment Act, required that district courts are set up in each district to bring justice closer to the people.

Mr Owusu-Ansah stated that currently there were about 58 districts capitals which did not have magistrates to preside over cases and that the programme was being introduced to address that shortfall. "At the moment 19 magistrates are now sitting with additional responsibilities and these are invariably causing huge backlog of cases", Mr Owusu-Ansah added.

He said the situation was becoming more alarming as qualified lawyers turned down appointment into the Judicial Service as well as the Attorney-General's Department.

"The problem is becoming more complex as most lawyers prefer to go into private practice," he said.

Mr Owusu-Ansah said there were not enough lawyers in the country and it was not in the nation's interest to deprive any part of the country of courts.

He noted that that there were no reasons why any area of the country should be deprived of essential services of the courts, hence the need to introduce career magistrates.

He hinted that the Judicial Service was negotiation with the Attorney General's Department to allow the lower courts to sit on Saturdays. The Judicial Secretary mentioned that the Court of Appeal would start sitting twice daily to off-load the backlog cases.

Mr Kwaku Ansah Asare, Director of the Ghana Law School, expressed concern about the number of lawyers who refused postings to the northern part of the country.

He said currently the Attorney-General's Department needs about 1,000 lawyers but the existing personnel is inadequate.

In this regard, the Ghana Law School would send all graduates to the Attorney General's Department for their national service, the Director said.

He said the Judicial Service would offer opportunities to Circuit Court Registrars to apply for the programme, adding that this would soon be extended to Civil Servants as well. 13 Aug. 03

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