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Crime and Punishment in the Republic of Ghana: A Country Profile

NCJ Number
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice Volume: 33 Issue: 2 Dated: Fall 2009 Pages: 309-324
Joseph Appiahene-Gyamfi
Date Published
16 pages
This essay profiles the administration of justice in Ghana, a unitary republican West African nation of 24 million people.
Ghana's Western institutions, including the current criminal justice institutions and related institutions, stem from the 1844 agreement between some local coastal chiefs and England. Under this agreement, the chiefs ceded their powers to England, including the administration of justice, in return for the protection of their kingdoms. The sources of Ghanaian law are the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution and legislation, along with orders, rules, and regulations issued by any person or authority under the power conferred by the Constitution, law, and common law. Ghanaian law mandates fundamental principles of justice such as fairness, equity, due process, habeas corpus, rule of law, and human rights. The law distinguishes between adult offenders and juvenile delinquents (persons under 17 years old who have violated the law). Criminal offenses are grouped into three broad categories: offenses against the person; offenses against property; and offenses against public order, health, and morality. In addition to providing an overview of Ghana's current criminal justice institutions, this essay reviews crime trends and patterns, the demographic and background characteristics of offenders, and the components of the country's criminal justice system (court system, police, and prison service). Native law and the native justice system are also described. They have been part of the administration of justice in Ghana since 1844, despite several attempts over the years to reduce their importance and influence. Although significant changes have occurred in the operation of this indigenous system of justice, every Ghanaian city, town, and village has a native court, which operates under the local chief. These courts deal primarily with chieftaincy and land disputes, as well as summary offenses such as petty thefts and assaults. 1 table and 35 references