Mrs Justice Georgina Wood has bowed out of office as Chief Justice after 47 years in public office, with a call on Ghanaians to eschew acts of mob justice.
Mrs Justice Wood, whose term in office ended on June 7, 2017, celebrated her 70th birthday last Wednesday with thanksgiving at the Ringway Assemblies of God Church in Accra.
“I urge all Ghanaians to be law abiding. Every society thrives on law and order. A society cannot survive on anarchy. The judiciary is the bedrock of the rule of law and I ask Ghanaians to continue to have faith in it and support it to discharge its role,” she pleaded in her farewell message to Ghanaians through the Daily Graphic.
Honour serving Ghana
Mrs Justice Wood said it was a great honour and privilege to serve Ghana for more than four decades but conceded there were ups and downs. She added that “God has seen me through them all.”
She said being the Chief Justice and head of the Judiciary was a challenging task but by God’s grace and mercies she was able to accomplish her task.
Mrs Justice Wood’s tenure witnessed the biggest bribery scandal involving 34 judges and more than 100 members of staff of the Judicial Service.
Asked how she managed to stem the tide during the scandal which resulted in the dismissal of more than 20 judges and more than 90 members of staff of the Judicial Service, Mrs Justice Wood answered: “It was by the grace of God.”
Message to the Judiciary
Mrs Justice Wood said the 1992 Constitution placed enormous responsibilities on the judiciary to dispense quality justice to the people of Ghana and for that reason it should not be seen or perceived to be dispensing selective justice.
She stated: “I trust that our judges and magistrates will be men and women of integrity, be professional, remain firm, fair and honest in discharging their duties. A corrupt and inept judiciary is a threat to democracy. I urge you all to continue to preserve Ghana’s image as the beacon of democracy and the Judiciary as the guardian of the rule of law.”
Message to the Bar
“The judiciary and justice delivery system cannot function properly without a supportive Bar. I would like to thank you for the excellent cooperation I enjoyed during my term and pray that you extend the same cooperation to my successor and to the judiciary as a whole to deliver quality justice,” she avised.
She urged the country’s leaders to be selfless in building the fortunes of the country.
“God calls us for different missions and purposes and it is up to us to use the calling to benefit mankind. Selfless leadership builds nations,” Mrs Justice Wood added.
Mrs Justice Wood declined to cite her achievements but said “I am so happy I was able to convince prestigious universities around the world to offer higher education to judges and magistrates to do their Master’s in various fields.
Under the collaborations that her administration has negotiated, members of the Ghanaian Bench have pursued advanced degrees in such diverse branches of law such as information and communications technology, tax, transnational legal practice, international law and justice, intellectual property and maritime law, building judicial capacity and professional competencies.
Another achievement dear to her was her ability to mentor more than 1,200 students from senior high schools for the past decade.
Mrs Justice Wood led what has been termed as “infrastructure revolution” in the Judicial Service, which has resulted in the provision of a huge court complex, refurbishment of the Supreme Court, provision of a befitting residence for the Chief Justice of the Republic and the establishment of residences for high court justices among many other feats.
Under her leadership, the Judicial Service produced A Manual on Election Adjudication in Ghana ahead of the general elections of 2008, 2012 and 2016.
Access to Justice
Mrs Justice Wood also promoted Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and set up Specialised Courts i.e. Land, Labour, Human Rights, Financial and Economic Crimes Courts, including Weekend Courts, to ensure speedy adjudication of cases.
In addition, Mrs Justice Wood set up 14 courts to expeditiously handle illegal mining cases.
In 2009, a flagship gender justice specialist court, popularly called Gender-Based Violence Court, was set up in Accra to resolve domestic violence cases in a speedy manner.
Child-friendly facilities have also been created at the Juvenile Courts.
Justice For All Programme
Mrs Justice Wood established the Justice For All Programme almost a decade ago to reduce congestion in the country’s prisons, especially in respect of prisoners on remand with expired warrants.
She also extended Court of Appeal to the regions and appointed judges with Oversight Responsibility for the regions.
Mrs Justice Wood began her career in law enforcement in 1971 as a Public Prosecutor with the Ghana Police Service. She joined the Judicial Service of Ghana in 1973, first as a District Magistrate Grade II, rising to positions on the Circuit and High Courts and the Court of Appeal.
On November 12, 2003, she was appointed to the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court.
On June 11, 2007, she was appointed Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana. She has reformed Ghana’s judicial system by improving access to justice and enhancing public trust and confidence in the judiciary.