Your ‘friend’ borrowed GHS 51,000 from you last year and promised to pay back within a month. 7 months later, you run out of patience, and see a lawyer. You hope a quick letter fired your friend’s way will bring him kneeling with the money. It doesn’t. You take your ‘friend’ to court, although other friends pressure you not to. Apart from your lawyer’s fee, you have to grapple with court fees. In recent times, new fees have been introduced in the courts which are causing a royal uproar, and making people ask if litigation is being reserved for only companies and rich individuals.
In the example above (remember your GHS 51,000), if you choose to sue in the Commercial Court (and it is widely believed to be our best court) the claim for the money alone will cost you GHS 1,000 to file. Now you don’t just write out the claim and file it in court – you must attach a written background statement. This statement will cost you another GHS 30 to file. And these are just your initial processes. But there’s more. You have dole out a further GHS 200 as ‘Administrative Fee’. Thus, before your case is fully on foot, you would have paid out at least GHS 1,230. At least!
Running our scenario through the less ‘illustrious’ courts, your costs to bring your case on foot in the Fast Track High Courts would be at least GHS 500 plus GHS 50 totalling GHS 550.
If you’d like to bring an appeal to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court (in the right circumstances) the fee to bring your appeal on foot are GHS 100 (Court of Appeal) and GHS 300 (Supreme Court).
Even where someone takes you to court (possibly through no fault of your own), you must pay GHS 50 simple to show that you submit to the court’s jurisdiction and to name your lawyer for the record. Then, another GHS 50 to put in a statement of your defence.
For parties or lawyers who believe in ‘loading the issues’ in court and in asking the court for dozens of remedies against their opponent, you must know that you will typically pay GHS 30 for every remedy you ask the court to grant.
There’s a long list of processes and proceedings which specific fees have been provided for. Let’s round this up by mentioning a few more.
Almost all cases will see parties filing several motions to ask for the court’s guidance or temporary orders of the court to protect their interests while they wait for the final judgment. On average, these motions will cost you at least GHS 50. You often have to attach exhibits to support your motion. Well, these exhibits will cost you GHS 10 each.
Even where you or your lawyer bring a motion to court and a court official (known as a bailiff) serves your papers on your opponent and have to provide a memo showing that they have served the motion, you’ll pay GHS 50 for that.
Sometimes, you have to pay money you owe to another person ‘into court’. It may be because the person doesn’t want to accept it from you. It is a well-used procedure because interest stops building up on the debt if you pay it into court. Under the new rules, whatever amount you pay into court, you have to pay 5% of it additionally as a fee to the court. So a payment of GHS 51,000 into court will cost the payer GHS 2,550.
In inheritance, you need the court’s approval to take control of inherited assets (including money). For this, you must pay 3% of the value of the assets left over to you.
If you earn about GHS 1,000 a month (about 5 times the minimum wage) or even GHS 2,000 (about 10 times the minimum wage), I imagine you would find it difficult on top of the costs of living to protect your rights in court.
It’s said that these new fees are a hike between 50% and 300% on the old fees. There’s a campaign led by lawyers to bring about a reduction of these fees, as many ordinary Ghanaians will be shut out of court. BRD will bring you reports on any developments.