By Hester Swift, Foreign and International Law Librarian, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library, March 2011.

With contributions by Miss Akua Asantewaa Aforo, Assistant Librarian, Faculty of Law/Ghana Institute of
Advanced Legal Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana




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 materials for Ghana:  legislation, law reports, books and journals.


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The Constitution of the Fourth Republic was approved on 28 April 1992.  It is available on the websites of the Parliament of Ghana and the Judicial Service of Ghana.   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-.   Consolidated version of the current Constitution.

World constitutions illustrated, a module of the HeinOnline subscription database (see IALS Electronic Law Library).  Includes the current and previous constitutions. Also provides selected journal articles, a short bibliography and other materials relating to the Constitution.


Constitutions of the countries of the world, A.P. Blaustein and G.H. Flanz (ed.s).  Oceana, 1971 - 2010.  Main work includes the current Constitution, with commentary on the 1996 reforms. The old constitutions are in the Depository – see Library Catalogue for details.


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 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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Government and Judicial System

The President is the head of state and government, advised by the Council of State.

Ghana has a unicameral Parliament, elected every four years. The Parliament has its own website.

Ghana’s Supreme Court is a constitutional court as well as the court of last resort. Below it are the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice, circuit courts and other courts and tribunals. The Judicial Service of Ghana has a website with information about the judiciary, cause lists and court rules, but not judgments.

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Legal Education

The University of Ghana, at Legon, near Accra, has had a Faculty of Law since the early 1960s. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), in Kumasi, has had a Department or Faculty of Law since 1970. It offers an LLB programme. The Ghana Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, an institution for advanced research and policy development, is based at KNUST.

The Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), in Achimota, Accra, has a law school offering an LLB.

The Ghana School of Law, in Accra, provides professional law courses.


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 various military regimes called their legislation “decrees” or “laws”, not “acts”. During the colonial period, the term “ordinance” was used.

Although Ghana has a Criminal Code and a Criminal Procedure Code, they are technically acts: The Criminal Code, 1960 (Act 29), and The Criminal Procedure Code, 1960, (Act 30).

Acts passed during the four Republics are numbered in a single sequence, resuming after each period of miliary 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, as in the following examples:

              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. 

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Primary legislation

IALS has Laws of Ghana, a looseleaf set of legislation revised to 31 December 2004. Prepared by Vincent C.R.A.C. Crabbe, it is published by LexisNexis on behalf of the Republic of Ghana.  It comprises the Constitution of 1992; ordinances, acts, decrees and laws (primary legislation); and the constitutional instruments of the Fourth Republic.  Volume 2 contains a chronological table of legislation from 1852 to 2004.

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 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 Library Catalogue under classmark RES GH3.E.1.  For an overview of all IALS’s revised sets of legislation up to 1970, click here

Ordinances, acts, decrees and laws in their original form are held from  1843 to 1995: see Library Catalogue under classmark GH3.E.2. There are some gaps, however, particularly in the 1990s.  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.  IALS does not subscribe to this series, but it is available at the British Library (see Official Publications, below).

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Subsidiary legislation

IALS has subsidiary legislation as originally made from 1910 to 1995, with some gaps. Titles vary: see Library Catalogue under classmark GH4.E.4.  This collection includes numerous different types of instrument, including rules, regulations, orders, proclamations, constitutional instruments and executive instruments. 

The Library also holds a revised edition of subsidiary legislation as at 31 December 1954: The laws of the Gold Coast : containing subsidiary legislation…  As mentioned above, some subsidiary legislation from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can be found in the revised sets of (mainly) primary legislation, at RES GH4.E.1.

The Library also has two small compilations of Gold Coast emergency regulations, dating from World War II and 1950 (RES FOL GH3.E.3).

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Electronic sources of legislation

Certain acts can be found on the websites of government bodies and international organisations: see Lexadin website for  links. (Lexadin is a Dutch legal technology service.)

DataCenta’s subscription service (not available at IALS) includes both primary and secondary legislation.


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Law Reports

IALS holds several series of Ghanaian and Gold Coast law reports and case digests, notably The Ghana law reports (1959 - 1995/96, vol. 1) and The Supreme Court of Ghana law reports (1996/97 - 1998/99). All series can be found on the Library Catalogue, under classmarks GH3.G and GH3.H.

See also:

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 (1881-1955)

West African Court of Appeal reports (1929 - 1941)

West African law reports (1956 – 1958; continued by Ghana law reports)

Fanti customary laws (second and third editions, 1904 and 1968; includes selected cases)

Fanti law report of decided cases on Fanti customary laws (1897)

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Electronic sources

The Ghana Law Reports, Judgments of the Superior Courts and Index to the Law Reports are available online, by subscription, from a company called DataCenta. Please note, however, that IALS Library does not subscribe to this service.

Selected Ghana land law decisions (1872 -1990) and a small number of other cases are available free from the Commonwealth Legal Information Institute. Some of these materials are under the heading "Other LII materials concerning Ghana".


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Official Publications

IALS has a small selection of publications by Ghanaian official bodies. The collection includes, among other things, the Ghana Law Reform Commission’s annual reports and law reform reports.  All these publications are listed on the Catalogue.

The British Library has a larger collection of official publications, including the Ghana Gazette and its forerunners, the Gold Coast Gazette  (1922 – 1957) and Government Gazette (1885 – 1922).  For more information, see the British Library website.

Ghanaian parliamentary debates (Hansard) for the current year are available on the Parliament of Ghana’s website.

Other official publications may be available on government websites – see the Ghana Government Official Portal for links.

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IALS Library has more than a hundred books on Ghanaian and Gold Coast law - see Library Catalogue.  Recent titles include the following:


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


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


Ghana law since independence : history, development, and prospects : collection of essays to commemorate the golden jubilee anniversary of Ghana's independence. Henrietta J.A.N. Mensa-Bonsu et al, eds. Accra : Black Mask, for Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, c2007.


Business in Ghana : a handbook on laws and regulations. Gertrude Torkornoo (ed.). Accra : SLC Law Forum, 2003.


Bondzi-Simpson, P. Ebow, Law of contract : with special reference to the law of Ghana. Accra : Excellent Publishing and Printing, 2002.


Kludze, A. K. P., Chieftaincy in Ghana. Lanham, Maryland : Austin & Winfield, 2000. 

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IALS has substantial holdings of two Ghanaian law journals:

Review of Ghana Law.  Accra: Council for Law Reporting, 1969-  ; in IALS 1969-1993/95.  Covered by Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (see Electronic Law Library).  

University of Ghana Law JournalUniversity of Ghana, Faculty of Law, 1964 - ; in IALS 1964-1996/99.  Covered by Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (see Electronic Law Library).

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

There is another, newer, periodical which IALS does not hold: Banking and Financial Law Journal of Ghana. Accra: Legal Research Center, 1998- . 

Electronic journals

The Review of Ghana Law, University 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.)

Research Guides

A free guide called Researching Ghanaian Law can be found on the Globalex website. It is by Victor Essien, International Law Librarian and Adjunct Associate Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. Globalex is produced by New York University's Hauser Global Law School Program.

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Online Resources


Ghana Government:  the official government web portal


Judicial Service of Ghana:  official Ghana courts website


Lexadin: Legislation – Ghana: links to legislation on Ghana government websites, provided by Dutch legal technology service, Lexadin.


Office of the Presidency: official website of the Ghanaian President, with links to government departments.


Parliament of Ghana:  official website, providing recent parliamentary debates, order papers, committee reports, the Constitution and a few acts and bills.


Researching Ghanaian Law:  Globalex research guide (Hauser Global Law Program, New York University).

WorldLII - Ghana:  the World Legal Information Institute's Ghana page, providing some case law and a set of links to other websites.

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