THE Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Joe Ghartey, has called on lawyers in private practice to consider defending the poor who seek justice as a way of giving back something to society.
According to him, under the 1992 Constitution, everybody had the right to a counsel but because of the high legal fees, many people could not access justice.
He, therefore, called on private legal practitioners to extend their services to the poor to ensure fairness and access to justice by all in the country.
“We have reached a stage in our country where we must guarantee our people access to justice,” he stressed.
Mr Ghartey, who made the call when he interacted with members of the Brong Ahafo Regional Ghana Bar Association (GBA) in Sunyani, stated that it was against that background that his ministry initiated the “Justice for All” programme in September last year to ensure that the under-privileged, such as those in the prisons, would receive justice.
He, therefore, urged all who had something to do with the delivery of criminal justice in the country, especially lawyers in private practice, to support the programme and commended members of the Brong Ahafo GBA for supporting it.
Illustrating the need for the “Justice for All” programme, Mr Ghartey said a boy who attempted to steal a mobile phone but failed was kept in custody for a long time, while the complainant failed repeatedly to show up for the continuation of the case because he had his phone back.
Again, he cited the case of a bicycle thief who was apprehended and imprisoned, although the bicycle was returned to the owner, adding that many people with similar stories were languishing in prison, hence the “Justice for All” programme, which was first aimed at remand prisoners but had now been extended to convicts to decongest the country’s prisons.
Mr Ghartey noted that under the programme, the Chief Justice would give judges cases reviewed by prison officers to ensure that people who had been in custody longer than the sentence they would have been given had their cases gone to trial would be released.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice suggested that instead of custodial sentences for minor offences, the law must allow such offenders more probationary period, in which case such convicts could be made to work for Zoomlion, a waste management firm, clothed in distinct uniforms, which would go a long way to benefit the society.
He said since he took office as the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, he had evolved several strategies to attract lawyers to the Attorney-General’s Office to compete with those in private practice, saying that since that move, 85 lawyers had so far joined the A-G’s Office and he was aiming at 100 lawyers to join the office by the end of the year.
Mr Ghartey appealed to the Regional Bar Association to endeavour to organise educational programmes on the Money Laundering Act, in view of the oil find, since within two to four years the country would be prosperous.