Posted by / Wednesday 15 June 2016 / No comments

Comparison between the traditional system of justice and modern judicial system in West Africa

Swearing of oath
One of the similarities between the traditional and modern judicial system is that in both cases the litigants were made to swear an oath. In the traditional setting, the parties swore by the stool or the gods but in the modern judicial system, the litigants swear by the Bible, the Cross or the Koran.

Appeal system
Another similarity between the traditional and modern judicial system was the right to appeal a sentence if a plaintiff was not satisfied with the ruling. For example, if the case was tried by the Divisional Chief, the dissatisfied plaintiff could appeal until the case got to the court of the Paramount Chief beyond which there was nowhere to go to. In the modern judicial system also, a plaintiff could appeal his or her sentence till he/she reaches the Supreme Court of the land.

Trial by Jury
When a matter is brought to the court, a jury sat down to listen to both parties to the dispute. After both parties have presented their case, and after they have been cross-examined, the Jury then deliberated over the matter. It is only after this deliberation that judgment was pronounced and fines imposed on the guilty party. In the modern judicial system, the jury also deliberates over and arrives at a verdict. The judge is then expected to hand down sanctions to the guilty party.

The role of the Chief
One of the differences between the modern and the pre-colonial judicial system is that in the traditional judicial system, the chief was the Chief and his elders constituted the jury. The court premise was the chief's palace. The court was presided over by the chief acting as the Chief Justice. In the modern judicial system, the courts are manned by professionals like lawyers and judges. 

In the traditional judicial system, the litigants in the case were allowed to cross-examine each other where no legal counsel is involved. In the modern judicial system legal counsels are allowed to do the cross-examination on behalf of their respective clients.

Trial by ordeal
Trial by ordeal is a system used, traditionally, to determine the guilt or otherwise of an accused person. The accused submitted to tests believed to be painful, the outcome of which was believed to depend on divine intervention. The traditional judicial system has room for such a trial, depending upon the nature of the case. In the modern judicial system, trial by ordeal is not acceptable. It is evidence based and judgment is given based on the evidence adduced.

Written records
Trials in the traditional court were verbal. No written records were maintained for future reference.  On the other hand, the modern judicial system maintains detailed written records which serves as reference materials on which future cases may be based.

1. Highlight three similarities and three differences between the traditional and the modern judicial system.
2. Compare and contrast the modern and the traditional judicial system.

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