The justice system: a quantitative analysis (2)

In part 1 of this article, the author laid the background for this survey by giving a broad overview of the justice system in Ghana and its importance to the administration of justice. Analysis of the respondents’ gender was reported. This set the work as a prelude and a necessary requirement to the response of the questionnaire as two (2) of the five (5) of the questions in the survey questionnaire was analysed.

Let me quickly repeat that the data was collected within twenty four (24) hours after the broadcast of the questionnaire. It later collated out of which analysis was drawn in part 1 and the final in part (2) of this articles.

In the foregoing paragraphs, the author will analyse the final three (3) of the five (5) responses to the questionnaire administered in the survey. The five (5) questions contained in the survey are:

Question 1: Have you been to a Ghanaian court before?

Question 2: Which level of court did you attend?

Question 3: In what capacity did you attend the court?

Question 4: Do you think the judge was independent (fair) in his/her judgment?

Question 5: Do you trust the justice system in Ghana?

The last three (3) questions above will be the pivot of the analysis of the study. They will be analysed in a step-by-step methodical approach and given an interpretation to how they impact the future of Ghana’s justice system.

Table 1: In what capacity did you attend the court?

Capacity in which Respondents attended the court No. of Respondents % of Respondents
Plaintiff 13 22
Defendant 10 16.9
Witness in a case 9 15.3
Visitor / Observer 27 45.8
Total 59 100

Source: Author’s fieldwork, 2019

Table 1 shows the capacity in which participants attend the court. Many people go to court for different reasons and in different capacities. Some have gone to court many times in different reasons. For some people they have a one than a case in court so at one breathe they are plaintiffs, at another breathe they are defendants and at another they witness and/or observe.

22% of respondents have attended court in their capacity as plaintiffs. A plaintiff in a case is the complainant and/or the aggrieved person who sued. It is often assumed that because a person is aggrieved and sued it is automatic that the court will give judgment in the plaintiff favour. There are many cases that plaintiff lose. The fact that you are not happy about an incident and therefore went to court mean the law is in your favour.

16.9% of respondents have attended court in their capacity as defendants. A defendant in a case is the respondent and/or the person who is sued. It is often assumed that because a person has been sued it is automatic that the court will give judgment in favour of the plaintiff. There are many cases that the court ruled in favour of the defendant. The fact that you have been sued does that mean the law is against you.

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15.3% of respondents have attended court in their capacity as witnesses in a case. A witness in a case is a person who gives evidence. The court admits eye witnesses and not hearsay witnesses. Eye witnesses are those who were physically present at the scene when the incident happened. In criminal cases, witnesses are testify in camera are usually not seen by the perpetrators of the crime. This is to protect the identity of the witnesses from been harm in the future by the perpetrators of the crime.

However, counsel for the accused in criminal offences is granted to see the witnesses for cross examination. In civil cases, the identity of the witnesses is not hidden and their testimony may be heard in an open court or in the judge’s chamber. The testimony of a witness must corroborate with the statement of claim presented by the counsel or else it may jeopardise the merit of the case.

Witnesses must be carefully selected and where they are not necessarily needed to authenticate the case, they should be avoided. Witnesses are usually coached by the counsel. Direct examination of witnesses is usually not a problem like cross examination of witnesses.

Amazingly, 45.8 of respondents have attended court in their capacity as observers/visitors. This represents the highest percentage of respondents who attended court in the various capacities. This means that they were not directly involved in the case. They either followed family and friends involved in a case to give them moral support or went to the court for educational purposes. I doubt how many went on the later purpose.

A future study may have to investigate the overriding reason why observers/visitors go to court. For the 15 respondents in part 1 of this article who said they have never been to court before perhaps should be encouraged to attend court sessions to acquaint themselves with the administration of justice.

Table 2: Do you think the judge was independent (fair) in his/her judgment??

Fair judgement  No. of Respondents % of Respondents
Yes 36 61
No 23 39
Total 59 100

Source: Author’s fieldwork, 2019

Table 2 shows the response of level of independence (fairness) in the judgments at the Ghanaian courts. Even though this question seems to already have a preconceived notion, the responses seem to be an objective view and/or experiences of respondents.

Ideally, one could say that if a judgment went in favour of a party, that party would obviously say that the judge was independent likewise if it went against the other party, that party will say the judge wasn’t independent and are likely to say the judge was influenced against fair judgment. Since I will not want to assume, I will analyse the response of participants as presented in table 2.

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61% of respondents said “yes” they think the judge was independent (fair) in the delivery of judgement. Considering that the law is technical and their understanding may not be sound in the steps leading to the view of the judge, their “yes” is likely to be influenced by the judgement pronounced in their favour.

Likewise the 39% who responded “no” may have said so based on the ruling which did not favour them. It is only natural to feel that the judge was not fair when you know you have a genuine case. As they say “the law is not about truth, it about evidence.” You may have a good case but if it lacked evidence you may lose.

Perhaps in a future survey, I may consider asking to know the gender of the judge who ruled in all participants’ cases. This will help determine in the view of participants which gender of judges ruled in favour of participants in the study.

Table 3: Do you trust the justice system in Ghana?

Level of trust in the justice system  No. of Respondents % of Respondents
Yes 20 28.6
No 50 71.4
Total 70 100

Source: Author’s fieldwork, 2019

Table 3 shows the response of level of trust that Ghanaians hold in the justice system of Ghana. It is amazing how the number of response increased in this particular question. Of the ninety (90) respondents in the survey, the number dropped to fifty-nine (59) respondents in four (4) questions and shot up to seventy (70) responses in the fifth (5th) question. This tells how Ghanaian are interested in the justice system of Ghana.

28.6% of respondents said “yes” they trust the justice system of Ghana as compared to the 71.4% that responded “no” they don’t trust the justice system of Ghana. The disparity between respondents who trust the system and those who do not trust the system is too huge. Whatever reasons they hold for not trusting the justice system was not known to this researcher.

A future study will be devoted to enquire in both quantitative and qualitative approach to what make the justice system of Ghana not trustworthy to Ghanaians. While we wait for the opportunity for that study and its outcome, there is a responsibility on the judiciary to do a self-introspection and begin to win the confidence of the populace.

In conclusion, the National Commission for Civic Educations’ (NCCE) should be to encourage through funding educating Ghanaians to attend court sessions for citizenship education in the justice system of Ghana. Also the judiciary must not only administer justice but must be seen to be administering justice.

The role of the judiciary as an arm of government must be strident and true to their calling in nation building and human development. The truth must shine undiminished through the administration of justice.

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