The Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, has urged Justices from Commonwealth Nations to enhance access to justice, and improve the justice system by embracing digital innovations.
Speaking at the opening of the 19th Triennial Conference of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA) in Accra on Monday August 5, 2022, on the theme "Access to Justice in a Modern World," Dr. Bawumia said, in a contemporary world where digital innovations are making things and life easier, the justice system cannot be left behind.
Digital tools, the Vice President noted, were utilised by individuals and institutions, including the CMJA during the outbreak of covid-19 to carry on with life and maintain some normalcy.
"Unable to meet in person, we connected over video conferencing facilities. We shared progress over shared screens. And the great online marketplaces enabled us to procure the necessities of life that sustained us through the turbulence," Dr. Bawumia said.
"The CMJA is, of course, no stranger to the great utility of digital tools. Indeed, as has been noted, last year’s conference was held virtually and your Lordships, Honours and Worships were able to huddle over your digital screens and commune, in some fashion, with one another."
The Vice President noted that the absence of digital application could impede access to justice, stressing that delivery of justice will be boosted with the adoption of the right digital tools.
"How, for example, can a critical witness who is away from the jurisdiction for very valid reasons, provide the testimony necessary for the case to proceed? How can victims of assault tell their story if the result of the assault is that they are permanently tethered to a bed in an infirmary? How will a lawyer appear in two courts hours apart if the time between sittings is only a mere few minutes?," Dr. Bawumia asked.
"If there was a lesson from Covid-19, it was above all that all these are possible if we employ the right digital tools. The advancements in technology mean that we do not have to be physically present somewhere to perform a task there. We can reduce the man hours required to perform any task; super-charge the efficiency of institutions and empower individuals at all levels of society."
"Justice systems in the Commonwealth and around the world, must, in my estimation, fully embrace the power of digital tools in order to boost access to justice. In fact, it would be criminally negligent to ignore the latent power we have and allow the situation to fester where our courts are clogged, citizens are frustrated and justice remains out of the reach of many," the Vice President added.
Assuring the CMJA of Ghana's commitment to a digitalised justjce system, Dr. Bawumia shared with the audience, the story of how Ghana started digitising its judicial process even before the outbreak of Covid-19.
"I am happy to note that the Government of Ghana, under the leadership of His Excellency President Akufo-Addo, is fully committed to ensuring that justice is available to all through the effective use of digital tools."
"Even before Covid-19, the digitalisation of our courts was very much underway. We now have virtual courts for our citizens, an electronic case management system and a Justice For All programme that leans heavily on digital technology to expedite the cases of prisoners held on remand beyond the constitutional limit."
"The Government, through the Ministry of Communications and Digitalization and its allied agencies, will continue to support our Judicial Service to leverage technology to improve access to justice in the country."
"It is my hope that during the conference, there will be a robust exchange of ideas on how we can all, together and as individual nations, pursue the goal of universal access to justice. We have much to share with each other and I want to believe that at the end of the conference, we would have learnt much from each other. And that the citizens in our various nations will ultimately benefit from what we teach, learn and share here in Accra this week."
The CMJA brings together Chief Justices, Judges, Magistrates and judicial officers from Commonwealth Nations.