Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, the vice president, has urged judges from Commonwealth countries to adopt digital advances to increase access to justice and better the judicial system.
Speaking on the topic of “Access to Justice in a Modern World” at the opening of the 19th Triennial Conference of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA) in Accra on Monday, August 5, 2022, Dr. Bawumia said that in a modern world where technological advancements are making things and life easier, the justice system cannot be left behind.
The Vice President pointed out that during the covid-19 epidemic, people and organizations—including the CMJA—used digital means to go about their daily lives and preserve a modicum of normalcy.
Since we couldn’t meet in person, we communicated using video conferencing tools.
Over shared screens, we discussed our progress. And because to the wonderful online markets, we were able to get the things we needed to survive during the volatility, added Dr. Bawumia.
“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 stressed that the adoption of the appropriate digital tools will improve the delivery of justice and that the absence of digital applications may obstruct access to justice.
“How, for instance, can a crucial witness who is out of the country for very good reasons give the testimony required for the case to move forward?
How can assault victims relate their stories if the assault leaves them permanently chained to a bed in a hospital?
If there are only a few minutes between sittings, how will a lawyer attend in two courts that are hours apart?, Dr. Bawumia questioned.
“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.”
“In my opinion, the Commonwealth’s and the world’s justice systems must fully harness the power of digital tools to improve access to justice.
The Vice President said, “It would actually be criminally negligent to disregard the latent power we possess and let the situation fester where our courts are overloaded, residents are frustrated, and justice stays beyond the grasp of many.
Dr. Bawumia told the audience how Ghana began digitizing its court system even before the Covid-19 epidemic, assuring the CMJA of Ghana’s commitment to a digitalized justice system.
“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.”
Chief Justices, Judges, Magistrates, and other judicial officials from Commonwealth Nations are all represented by the CMJA.