Guide last updated by Hester Swift, May 2022
We also recommend the following online research guides for foreign jurisdictions.
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.
The Constitution of the Fourth Republic was approved on 28 April 1992. It is available on the website of the Republic of Ghana Judiciary, and a version as amended to 1996 can be found on the ILO's NATLex database.
Each of the previous republics had its own constitution, adopted in 1979, 1969 and 1960 respectively. The independence constitution is contained in the Ghana (Constitution) Order in Council 1957, a UK statutory instrument (SI 1957/227).
At IALS Library the Ghanaian constitutions can be found in the following sources:
World Constitutions Illustrated, a module of HeinOnline (see IALS Law Databases): current and previous constitutions, selected journal articles, a bibliography and other material relating to the Constitution;
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;
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;
Ghana (Consitution) Order in Council, 1957.
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.
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', whereas the military regimes called their legislation 'decrees' or 'laws'; 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.
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.
Numerous historical sets of revised legislation are also 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.
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).
Acts, ordinances, decrees and laws as originally passed 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 the Gazette, but it is held at the British Library, and there is a substantial, though incomplete, collection of gazette issues on the website of the Ghana Legal Information Institute.
IALS has subsidiary legislation as originally made from 1910 to 1995, with some gaps. Titles vary: see Catalogue, under 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 1954 revised edition of subsidiary legislation: The laws of the Gold Coast: containing subsidiary legislation… Some subsidiary legislation from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is included in the revised sets of primary legislation at 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
CommonLII includes selected acts of the Parliament of Ghana, 1960 to 2010.
The Parliament of Ghana website has a collection of acts from the 1960s onwards.
Some Ghanaian acts are found on government websites: links are available from the Government of Ghana site; it is also worth searching the .gov.gh domain for particular acts.
DataCenta Ltd., based in Accra, used to publish Law in Ghana, an online database of primary and secondary Ghanaian legislation (and other legal material). IALS did not subscribe to this service, and DataCenta now appears to have suspended operations (Victor Essien, UPDATE: Researching Ghanaian Law, December 2020).
Information about the court system is available on the website of the Republic of Ghana Judiciary.
Law reports and case digests for Ghana are on the IALS Library Catalogue under classmarks GH3.G and GH3.H. They include:-
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.
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.
The Ghana Legal Information Institute provides cases from the Ghanaian Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
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 judgments from the Supreme Court of Ghana is included in SCC Online (see 'Browse Judgments by Court').
Selected Ghana land law decisions (1872 -1990) are available from CommonLII. Privy Council judgments and rulings of international courts and tribunals concerning Ghana are found on CommonLII under "Other LII materials concerning Ghana".
IALS Library holds a small selection of reports and other publications by official bodies, including 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.
IALS Library has more than a hundred books on the law of Ghana or the Gold Coast; we also have many works about African, Commonwealth and comparative law, some of which may cover Ghana. Everything is listed on the Catalogue.
The library's recent titles on the law of Ghana include the following:
Tweneboah, Seth, Religion, law, politics and the state in Africa: applying legal pluralism in Ghana. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY : Routledge, 2020.
Asante, Samuel K. B., Reflections on governance, law and development. Beau Bassin, Mauritius: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2019.
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
IALS has substantial holdings of two Ghanaian law journals:
Review of Ghana Law. Accra: Council for Law Reporting; hard copy held from vol.1 (1969) to vol. 20 (1996-2000) and available online 1969-2010 - see IALS Library Catalogue; covered by Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals - see Law Databases).
University of Ghana Law Journal. University of Ghana, Faculty of Law; hard copy held from vol.1 (1964) to vol. 19 (1995) and available online 1964-2016 - see Catalogue.
KNUST Law Journal is available as an e-journal only, 2004-2019 - see Catalogue.
The library's collection also includes single issues of a few other series from Ghana: see Catalogue, under classmark GH3.J.
The library holds many journals focusing on African or Commonwealth law, notably African Journal of International and Comparative Law, Journal of African Law, Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal, Commonwealth Judicial Journal, Commonwealth Law Bulletin and African Human Rights Law Journal.
There are also several newer 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-
CommonLII (Commonwealth Legal Information Institute): selected Ghanaian acts, 1960 to 2010.
Ghana Government: the government web portal
Ghana Legal Information Institute: provides issues of the Ghana Gazette and cases from the Ghanaian Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
Judicial Service of Ghana: the Ghana courts website; has information about the court system and the judiciary.
Parliament of Ghana: provides parliamentary debates, order papers, committee reports, the Constitution, 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 legal material from Ghana.