Chief Justice Georgina Wood Blazes a trail

By Pearl Odame —

Chief Justice Georgina Wood

Chief Justice Georgina Wood

WITH  just two years to go before her, term ends, folks are wondering what Justice Theodora  Georgina Woods will do for an encore. The trail blazing head of Ghana’s Judiciary has earned the trust of presidents across the nation’s polarized political divide.

She has helped bolster Ghana’s legendary democracy by approving an unprecedented live broadcast of Supreme Court hearings to decide if the 2012 election of President John Mahama should be overturned. More recently she fired judges implicated in the biggest corruption scandal in Ghana’s judicial history.

At her swearing in ceremony in 2007 the then President, John Agyekum Kufuor, urged Justice Wood to be firm, impartial and humane, and to provide the right leadership to give the judiciary a new image.

She came to the job highly qualified. Mrs. Wood had her basic education at the Bishop’s Girls and Methodist Schools in Dodowa, and later at Mofraturo Girls School before going on to Wesley Girls’ High School in Cape Coast for her secondary education. She studied law at the country’s premiere tertiary institutions including the University of Ghana and the Ghana Law School. She was truly “made in Ghana.”

Her career in the administration of justice started with the Ghana Police Service, where she was a deputy superintendent and public prosecutor for three years before becoming a District Magistrate in 1974. She moved on to serve in diverse roles in the judiciary – at the Circuit and High Courts, and as a presiding judge of the Appeals Court – and was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2002.

Her conviction

When Chief Justice Wood first took office, she acknowledged the country’s justice system was generally perceived as weak and corrupt. “The challenges facing the Judiciary are surmountable but I believe that through the collective will and effort of all, I have no doubt that, the confidence in the institution would be restored,” she said at her swearing in ceremony in 2007.

Her Ladyship had no illusions about the heavy burden placed on her shoulders and the expectations of the people. But she was up to the task. Many women, she had said, were looking up to her for inspiration and she pledged not to let the nation down.

Landmark actions

A year after she assumed office as Chief Justice she introduced the ‘Justice for All’ programme to decongest the country’s prisons. This led to the release of some remand prisoners who had been in jail for years without trial.

Her unprecedented decision in 2013 to allow television cameras into the Supreme Court for the live coverage of the biggest election dispute in Ghana’s history earned her public admiration.

Many analysts credited that decision as a contributory factor to the peace that prevailed when the outcome of the case was finally announced.

Tackling corruption

Perhaps, her biggest achievement yet, is the courage and firmness she exhibited in handling the judicial scandal that rocked the nation in 2015.

One hundred and eighty judges and judicial staff were caught on video by an investigative journalist, allegedly accepting various forms of bribe from litigants and relatives of suspects. Contrary to the general public perception that no action would be taken against them, Georgina Wood disappointed the doubters by upholding the rule of law. She set the disciplinary process in motion and in a matter of months, 20 circuit court judges and magistrates were found culpable by the Disciplinary Committee of the Judicial Council and subsequently dismissed. That process is still on going.

Allegations of corruption in the judiciary have been a great source of concern to Wood throughout her tenure.

“I repeat, allegations of corruption continue to embarrass the administration of justice in Ghana. From members of the Bench to Bailiffs and everyone in between, court officials and administrative appendages have been accused of corruption,” she said at the Ghana Bar Association annual general conference in 2014.

It is not only the system that Justice Wood had sought to reform. Under her leadership, modern new court buildings have been built in Accra, Kumasi and at the district level, and modernised.

Building a new image

This year, Her Ladyship started the process of replacing the sacked judges. She appointed five circuit court judges and nine magistrates. But before swearing them in, another historic step was taken under her leadership. The Judicial Council published the names of the appointees in national newspapers and encouraged the general public to send in information that could compromise their work or dent the image of the judiciary.

When she bows out in 2017 on retirement, Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood will go down in history not only as Ghana’s first female Chief Justice but also as the longest serving chief justice under the country’s 4th Republican Constitution, and she would have sworn in her forth President. – Georgina Wood Leads Africa.

Image credit: Graphic Online

 

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