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Opinions of Monday, 15 May 2017

Columnist: Joseph Ackah-Blay

Chief Justice Akuffo must modernise the courts

Less than Twenty-four hours after President Akufo-Addo informed us of who our next CJ is, I have an experience in a courtroom that reinforces my view that CJ Akuffo must modernise the courts.

The case is that involving former President Mahama's brother Ibrahim. I arrived in court 8am on the dot and grabbed a seat at the back. The case is called and Mr.Mahama is asked to mount the box. I open my notebook and record his plea on the two counts.

A tap on my shoulder gets me to turn around. A police officer stationed at the court beckons me and orders me to "stop writing what they are saying". I reply

" I am not writing (verbatim) what they are saying ". He states

" But you have written "not guilty"? ". I reply

" That's different from writing what they are saying".

He seems irritated and tells me to stop challenging him and that I need to apply to the registrar to get permission to write.

I found this absurd a requirement and was about telling him I had covered landmark cases at the Apex court when the Magistrate called for order and asked what the altercation was about.

She asked the Policeman to approach her after which she made the following announcement;

"No one is allowed to use any recording device in this court room"

I smiled, thinking the Magistrate agrees with me only for her to add "No one should write,if you are not a lawyer, don't write".

I was simply amazed; how did she expect me to report from her court without taking notes? What basis can she prevent me from taking notes in a court? I have since May 2016 covered many cases (I have honestly lost count)

including that involving the Muntie Trio our new CJ is noted for. Never have I heard anywhere the need to request permission from anyone to use a pen and a piece of paper.

I was left with no choice than to close my notebook, put my pen in my pocket and watch proceedings like I was in a cinema.

I have seen a different kind of Judges; those who seem not to like the presence of the press and those who will inform us when they have a big case. But never have I encountered anything like this.

I sit in the comfort of my little room and watch ITLOS proceedings. I can via a simple search read very recent law reports in countries like the U.S.A. None of this is possible back here. There are some LED screens at the ground floor of the Law Court Complex that is supposed to project Cause list for the week.

It is simply not up to date as the most recent of cases don't seem to be on display each time I have checked.

I recall a lawyer requesting for court records in one case I covered. It took weeks for him to have access to it. How much more a Judgement?

So when my good friend Kofi Hagan wants to attack the media for talking only about M3 and Sophia Akuffo, I reply don't expect much in such circumstances. That is not to hold brief for sheer laziness on the part of some colleagues but simply to point out the fact the some things need to change in our courts and new CJ must be interested.