Two MPs begin processes to change Legal Profession Act
Two legislators, MP for South Dayi Rockson-Nelson Dafeamekpor and MP for Madina Francis-Xavier Sosu, are pursuing a new Bill to amend the Legal Professions Act, 1960, Act 32.
The two have subsequently presented a memo to the Clerk of Parliament requesting the Legislative Drafting Office to get the Bill ready to be submitted to the Speaker.
Among other things, the Bill seeks a redefinition of the General Legal Council (GCL) functions and the provision for reforms in legal education such that accredited faculties of law with requisite facilities would be licensed to run professional law courses.
Additionally, they want the Chief Justice and other justices of the Supreme Court to be axed from the General Legal Council (GLC).
They want a new definition and mandate for the GLC and related matters to give effect to Article 37(1) of the 1992 Constitution.
Article 37(1) of the 1992 Constitution provides that the State shall endeavour to secure and protect a social order founded on the ideals and principle of freedom, equality, justice, probity, and accountability as enshrined in Chapter 5 of this Constitution; and in particular, the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring every citizen has equality of rights, obligations, and opportunities before the law.
It follows a resolution for the GLC to compel the Ghana Law School to admit 499 students who sat for the 2021 entrance exams and passed in accordance with the earlier marking scheme.
Parliament directed the Attorney General on Friday, October 29, to ensure that the resolution is respected.
But in a letter addressed to the Speaker of Parliament, Attorney General and Minister of Justice Godfred Yeboah Dame said parliament cannot use a resolution to make such directions.
Law school admission challenges
On Wednesday, October 20, aggrieved candidates and their sympathisers, who sat for the 2021 Ghana School of Law entrance examination, hit the streets over how some 499 candidates were denied entrance.
The protest organised by the National Association of Law Students (NALS) dubbed ‘Red Wednesday’, accused the General Legal Council (GLC) of intentionally failing a chunk of the candidates because of a new quota system.
The controversies over the mass failure in the Ghana School of Law entrance exams are a result of the GLC’s decision to apply a new rule requiring candidates to obtain a pass of 50% in each of the two sections, namely A and B.
Hitherto, candidates needed just 50% in the entirety of the exams to gain entrance to the School of Law. But the new rule, which was communicated after results had been released, means that a candidate can make more than 50% in the entirety of the exams and still not gain entrance.
The new system led to the failure of some 499 candidates who sat for the 2021 examination and obtained more than 50%. The affected candidates have since been agitating and calling on the council to rescind its decision.
Clad in red and black attire on the morning of Wednesday, October 20, at the Black Star Square, the protesters were seen holding placards with inscriptions amid drumming and chanting.
Some of the inscriptions were “Stop traumatising law students, we did not fail”, “It’s not a crime to study law in Ghana”, “We are just being frustrated”, “Legal education is not a family’s property”, and many more.
The demonstration is also to demand reforms to the country’s legal education.
At a press conference before Wednesday’s demonstration, one of the group leaders, Tony Baah, said they will exercise their right to be admitted.
“We owe it to ourselves, God, and our country that our broken legal education system is fixed. If we cannot fight to vindicate our own rights, then we have no business seeking to become lawyers. Once again, we remain unshaken and resolute in seeking redress to our legitimate grievances,” Baah said.
“We are accepting nothing short of admitting all the 499 students who passed the entrance exams. To this end, we are pledging our unflinching support to join the Red Monday campaign on Wednesday to protest against the Ghana School of Law’s injustice and demand reforms to the nation’s legal education regime.
“Even as we hope that the relevant authorities will rise to the occasion and do right to our legitimate grievances, we are nonetheless not oblivious of exercising our right at the law court to vindicate our constitutional rights,” he indicated.
The protesters ended their demonstration by presenting their petition to parliament.
The 5-page document called for the GLC to “do right by these 499 candidates who passed the 2021 entrance exam and admit them immediately into the professional law course at the school”.
Legal education in Ghana has been fraught with a lot of misgivings on the part of hopeful legal practitioners who have complained of so much, from fees to admission into the Ghana School of Law, the only school that teaches for certification of lawyers in Ghana.
Two years ago, while failed candidates protested in Accra against how their examination was graded, they clashed with police who unleashed tear gas, warning shots and water canons.
This year, two thousand and thirty-four (2,034) Ghana School of Law entry candidates who sat for the 2021 entrance exams failed to enter into the country’s only institution for training professional legal practitioners.
Of the 2,824 candidates, only 790 students, representing 28%, passed the exams. The figure is a 10% drop from the total number of LLB candidates who passed in the previous year. Last year, 1,045 out of 2,763 students passed the 2020 exams.