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The Pitfalls of Ghana Attorney-Generals


Photo Reporting: Baroness ScotlandThe Pitfalls of Ghana Attorney-Generals


“The Attorney-General is indeed where law and politics meet. The role, combining as it does the roles of Chief Legal Adviser to the Government, Minister, and guardian of the public interest, is a undoubtedly a constitutional oddity. The Consultation document recognised that the focus of the debate on the role of the Attorney was the tension between the various functions of the A-General, being a Minister and being an independent guardian of the public interest and performing superintendence functions, for example on decisions relating to sensitive prosecutions; and the tension between being a party politician and a member of Government, and the giving of independent and impartial legal advice. For all the problems, which I acknowledge, no suggestion that an A-General in modern times has in fact taken a decision on the basis of political or otherwise improper considerations has been substantiated. The consultation exercise did not provide any evidence to support this sort of allegation...the test for any proposal for change should be whether it enhances the effective administration of justice, the maintenance of the rule of law and the protection of the public interest,” said Baroness Scotland [1].


At the heat of the 2012 presidential election petition: we overheard President John Dramani Mahama re-echoing the need to decouple the office of the attorney-general, from the ministry of justice. The background to this advocacy had been the quest for a fairer delivery of justice. This is not new. Not long ago, the British were confronted with a similar agitation and the questions that were posed at the time and might certainly be of interest to the Ghanaian are as follows: should the role of the Chief Legal Adviser to the Government be separated from that of a political Government Minister? And if so, who should exercise the role? What would be the possibilities for reform if the A- General were to remain the Government's chief legal adviser? Should the A-General’s role in relation to criminal proceedings be changed? And what changes would be necessary to the A-G’s public interest functions? It is unlikely that things are going to work for the better just on the basis of a mere administrative rebranding-it must be the money-first obsession of the Ghanaian, which ought to be addressed.



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