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Ghana: IALS Library Guides

An introduction to legal research in the jurisdiction of Ghana

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Last updated:

Hester Swift, June 2019

About the author HS

This guide was created by Hester Swift, Foreign & International Law Librarian at the IALS Library.

Email hester.swift@sas.ac.uk

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Introduction

The Republic of Ghana is in West Africa. Formerly the Gold Coast, a British colony, it was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve independence from colonial rule, in 1957. The Ghanaian legal system is based on a mixture of common law and customary law.

Ghana became a republic on 1 July 1960. Since that date there have been four republics interspersed by periods of military rule. The current, democratic state, the Fourth Republic, was declared on 7 January 1993.  

IALS Library holds both primary and secondary legal material for Ghana:  legislation, law reports, books and journals.

Constitution

The Constitution of the Fourth Republic was approved on 28 April 1992 and is available on the Ghanaian government website. Each of the previous Republics had its own constitution, dated 1979, 1969 and 1960 respectively.

 At IALS Library, the constitutions can be found in the following sources:   

Laws of Ghana, vol. 1: Constitution to constitutional instruments, Vincent C.R.A.C. Crabbe (ed.) (LexisNexis, c.2005-). Text of the 1992 Constitution as it stood on 31 December 2004.

World Constitutions Illustrated, a module of the HeinOnline subscription database (see IALS Electronic Law Library). Includes the current and previous constitutions, selected journal articles, a bibliography and other material relating to the Constitution.

Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Accra: Tema Press, 1992.  

Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Accra-Tema : Ghana Pub. Corp., 1979.

Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Accra-Tema, Ghana: Printed by Ghana Pub. Corp., distributed by Carswell, 1969.

Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Accra: Govt. Print. Dept., 1961.

Preparatory constitutional materials are also available at IALS, such as Proposals for a draft constitution of Ghana, Committee of Experts (Constitution) (Accra : Government Printer, 1991).  See Library Catalogue for similar works, as well as books about Ghanaian constitutional law.

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Legislation

Terminology and numbering
Primary legislation passed in the years immediately following independence (1957-1960) and under each of the four Republics takes the form of 'acts; the military regimes called their legislation 'decrees' or 'laws', not 'acts'; and during the colonial period the term 'ordinance' was used.

Acts passed during the four Republics are numbered in a single sequence, resuming after each period of military rule. This means, for example, that Act 720, the Whistleblower Act, 2006, is not the 720th act of 2006, nor of the Fourth Republic, but the 720th act passed since the beginning of the First Republic. However, the acts passed by the Constituent Assembly which drew up the Constitution of the First Republic have a separate numerical sequence.

The decrees and laws of the military regimes have their own numerical sequences and the numbers are prefixed by the abbreviated title of the regime, for example:

N.L.C.D. 3        National Liberation Council Decree no. 3             

N.R.C.D. 3        National Redemption Council Decree no. 3             

S.M.C.D. 3        Supreme Military Council Decree no. 3             

A.F.R.C.D. 3     Armed Forces Revolutionary Council Decree no. 3             

P.N.D.C.L. 3     Provisional National Defence Council Law no. 3

Colonial ordinances are numbered within each year, as are the acts of 1957-60: thus the first ordinance or act of each year was no. 1, and so on.  

Primary legislation
IALS Library has Laws of Ghana, comprising primary legislation revised to 31 December 2004; volume 2 has a chronological table of legislation from 1852 to 2004. The work was prepared by Vincent C.R.A.C. Crabbe and published by LexisNexis South Africa on behalf of the Republic of Ghana. (An updated online version is available from LexisNexis, but this is not available at IALS).

The Library has monograph editions of the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code:

The annotated Criminal Code of Ghana, edited by Henrietta J.A.N. Mensa-Bonsu, 4th ed. (Accra: Black Mask, 2005);  a 1993 edition is also held.

The annotated Criminal Procedure Code of Ghana, edited by Henrietta J.A.N. Mensa-Bonsu (Accra: Black Mask, 1999).

These codes are also included in Laws of Ghana (see above).

Numerous historical sets of revised Ghanaian legislation are held at IALS, dating from the late nineteenth century up to 1970. Some of these works include subsidiary as well as primary legislation. The titles vary: see Catalogue, under classmark RES GH3.E.1. For an overview of these revised sets, 1887 to 1970, click here

Ordinances, acts, decrees and laws in their original form are held from 1843 to 1995, with some gaps: see Catalogue, under classmark GH3.E.2. The earliest titles include imperial acts, treaties and other instruments, as well as ordinances.

Another source of legislation as originally passed is the Ghana Gazette, published by the Government Printer in Accra (1957 onwards). IALS does not subscribe to this series, but it is held at the British Library.

Subsidiary legislation
IALS has subsidiary legislation as originally made from 1910 to 1995, with some gaps. Titles vary: see Catalogueunder classmark GH3.E.4. This collection includes various types of instrument, including rules, regulations, orders, proclamations, constitutional instruments and executive instruments. 

The Library holds a revised edition of subsidiary legislation as at 31 December 1954: The laws of the Gold Coast: containing subsidiary legislation…  Some subsidiary legislation from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can also be found in the revised sets of (mainly) primary legislation, classmark RES GH3.E.1.

Two small compilations of Gold Coast emergency regulations are also held, dating from World War II and 1950, classmark RES FOL GH3.E.3. 

Online sources of legislation

The CommonLII website includes selected acts of the Parliament of Ghana, 1960 to 2010, and a few more recent acts can be found on the Parliament website. Some acts are available on the websites of government departments and international organisations: see Lexadin website for links, or search the .gov.gh internet domain. 

DataCenta Ltd., based in Accra, produces an online database of primary and secondary Ghanaian legislation (and other legal material) but IALS does not subscribe to this service.

An online version of Laws of Ghana is available from LexisNexis South Africa; at the time of writing, June 2019, it was current to May 2012.  (IALS does not subscribe).

Law reports

Law reports and case digests for Ghana are on the Catalogue under classmarks GH3.G and GH3.H. Among other series, IALS holds:-

The Ghana Law Reports (Accra: Council for Law Reporting) from 1959 to 2012 (incomplete).

The Supreme Court of Ghana Law Reports (Accra: Advanced Legal Publications) from 1996/97 onwards.

Older series include the following:

West African Court of Appeal Reports (1929 - 1941): a digest of cases, arranged by subject

West African Law Reports (1956 – 1958; continued by Ghana Law Reports - see above)

Law Reports: a selection from the cases decided in the Full Courts of the Gold Coast colony, of the colony of Lagos, and the colony of Southern Nigeria, 1881-1911 

Fanti Customary Laws (second and third editions, 1904 and 1968): includes selected cases

Fanti Law Report of Decided Cases on Fanti Customary Laws (1897) 

Twenty or so Ghanaian cases appear in Law Reports of the Commonwealth.

Online sources
Law Reports of the Commonwealth, which is on Lexis®Library, has published twenty or so Ghanaian cases, almost all of them from the Supreme Court of Ghana (1980s onwards).

A small collection of recent judgments from the Supreme Court of Ghana is included in SCC Online, under 'Browse Judgments by Court'. The SCCOnline database is available via the IALS Electronic Law Library.

Selected Ghana land law decisions (1872 -1990) are available from the CommonLII. Privy Council judgments and rulings of international courts and tribunals concerning Ghana are found on CommonLII under "Other LII materials concerning Ghana".

The Ghana Law ReportsJudgments of the Superior Courts and Index to the Law Reports are available online, by subscription, from DataCenta Ltd, Accra. IALS Library does not subscribe to this service, however.

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Official publications

IALS has a small selection of reports and other publications by Ghanaian official bodies, including annual reports and law reform reports of the Ghana Law Reform Commission: see Library Catalogue for details.

The British Library has a large collection of official publications from Ghana, including the Ghana Gazette and its forerunners, the Gold Coast Gazette  (1922 – 1957) and Government Gazette (1885 – 1922).  

Parliamentary debates ('Hansard') are available on the Parliament of Ghana’s website, 2005 onwards. Other official publications may be available on government websites.

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Books

IALS Library has more than a hundred books on the law of Ghana or the Gold Coast, all of which are listed on the Catalogue. Recent titles include the following:

Manteaw, Samuel Obeng, Migration law in Ghana. Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International, 2018

Sarpong, George Agyemang, Ghanaian environmental law: international and national perspectives. London: Wildy, Simmonds & Hill, 2018

Date-Bah, Samuel Kofi, Reflections on the Supreme Court of Ghana. London: Wildy, Simmonds & Hill, 2015

Amegatcher, Andrew Ofoe, Ghanaian law of copyright. Accra: Omega Law Publishers, 2014

Offei, Stephen, The law of torts in Ghana : text, cases and materials. Kumasi, Ghana: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, 2014

Manful, Esmeranda, The development of children's rights in Africa and Europe: comparing legislation in Ghana and Northern Ireland. Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010

Date-Bah, Samuel Kofi, On law and liberty in contemporary Ghana. Accra, Ghana: Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2008

Mensa-Bonsu, Henrietta J.A.N., et al, (eds.), Ghana law since independence: history, development, and prospects. Accra: Black Mask, for Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, c2007

Duncan, Beatrice Akua, and Kingsley-Nyinah, Dorothy (ed.s), A casebook on the rights of women in Ghana (1959-2005). Accra: Ghana Legal Literacy and Resource Foundation, 2006

The Library also holds many works on African, Commonwealth and comparative law, some of which may cover Ghana: see Catalogue for details.

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Journals

IALS has substantial holdings of two Ghanaian law journals:

Review of Ghana Law. Accra: Council for Law Reporting, 1969-  ; held at IALS vol.1 (1969) to vol. 20 (1996-2000). Covered by Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (see IALS Electronic Law Library).  

University of Ghana Law Journal. University of Ghana, Faculty of Law, 1964 - ; held at IALS vol.1 (1964) to vol. 19 (1995); all volumes available on HeinOnline (see IALS Electronic Law Library).

The collection also includes single issues of a few other series: see Catalogue, under classmark GH3.J.

IALS Library holds many journals focusing on African or Commonwealth law, including the law of Ghana, notably African Journal of International and Comparative LawJournal of African LawOxford University Commonwealth Law Journal, Commonwealth Judicial Journal, Commonwealth Law Bulletin and African Human Rights Law Journal. 

There are also several newer Ghanaian law journals which IALS does not have: 

Banking and Financial Law Journal of Ghana. Accra: Legal Research Center, 1998-

Ghana School of Law Students’ Law Journal. Accra: Students’ Representative Council of the Ghana School of Law, 2012-

GIMPA Law Review.  Accra: Faculty of Law, GIMPA Law School, 2015-

Lancaster University Ghana Law Journal. East Legon, Accra, Ghana: Lancaster University Ghana Law Department, 2016- 

The Review of Ghana LawUniversity of Ghana Law Journal and Banking and Financial Law Journal of Ghana are all available online, by subscription, from DataCenta Ltd (IALS does not subscribe to this service).

 

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Websites

 Ghana Government:  the government web portal

 Judicial Service of Ghana: the Ghana courts website. Does not, at the time of writing, provide judgments, but has information about the court system and the judiciary.

 Lexadin: Legislation – Ghana: links to legislation on Ghana government websites, provided by Lexadin, a legal techology company based in the Netherlands. Some of the links are broken, but the page is still a useful gateway to Ghanaian legislation on the internet.

 Parliament of Ghana: provides parliamentary debates, order papers, committee reports, the Constitution and a few acts and bills.

 Researching Ghanaian Law by Victor Essien: one of a large collection of research guides on New York University's Globalex website.

 WorldLII - Ghana:  the World Legal Information Institute's Ghana section, providing case law and links to other websites.