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General News of Wednesday, 2 January 2019


A recap of legal issues that made the news in 2018

The Supreme Court The Supreme Court

2018 was not without some legal battles between individuals and some public officials and entities.

The year started with the attack on the Kwabenya Police station on Sunday, January 21 which led to the escape of seven suspects.

A Police Officer on duty, Inspector Emmanuel Ashilevi was also killed in the attack, and a manhunt by the Accra Police Command led to the arrest of the 12 suspects who were arraigned before an Accra Circuit Court.

The court, however, handed two of the suspects a total of five years for jailbreak, handing two other suspects a total of 66 months for various roles played in the attack while discharging 6 other suspects.

Presiding Judge, Justice Aboagye Tandor, delivering his judgment stated that the prosecution failed to lead any substantial evidence against the six accused persons.

In the same month, the Kumasi Circuit Court sentenced the first suspect in the Bantama gang-rape case a twenty-year-old young man to seven years in prison with hard labour.

The other four suspects, who were referred to the Juvenile Court in connection with the sexual assault at Bantama in Kumasi, were also sentenced to serve in a Senior Correctional Facility for 36 months each.

Three of the suspects were charged with defilement and conspiracy to defile, while the other one was charged with aiding and abetting the crime.

Still in January, the immediate past Director-General of the National Communications Authority (NCA), William Tevie and a former Board Chairman of the NCA, Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, another Board Member, Nana Owusu-Ensaw, a former Deputy National Security Coordinator, Alhaji Salifu Osman and a private businessman, George Oppong were all brought before court and charged with causing financial loss to the state.

The case is still being heard in the court.

However, during the trial, defense lawyers maintained the A-G was constitutionally obligated to furnish all the suspects with all the documents – whether the state would use them or not – relating to the cases against their clients.

The A-G, Gloria Akuffo argued she was prepared to hand over documents the state would be relying on but contested the demand for all documents be they relevant or not.

She said there was no law grounding their demand and that she was being magnanimous by offering to give them relevant documents.

Dissatisfied with the A-G’s position, the suspects and their lawyers proceeded to the Supreme Court for a Constitutional interpretation, forcing the lower court to suspend hearing into the criminal cases against the former government officials.

The Supreme Court in its decision read by Justice Sophia Adinyira Thursday, June 7, 2018, stated that the current restrictions in Ghana’s laws impede justice delivery.

The Court, therefore, ordered that all documents be handed over to the suspects and their lawyers except where there is a justification not to.

Deputy A-G, Godfred Yeboah Dame, said he was satisfied with the decision because it chimed perfectly with what the state’s argument had been.

Most legal practitioners lauded the apex court adding it brought great relief to them as most often prosecutors ambush the defense lawyers during trial.

In July, some other government officials were also arraigned before the court.

The State leveled criminal charges against former Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), Ernest Thompson and four others, over the controversial $72 million Operating Business Suite (OBS) contract awarded to Perfect Business Solutions

This case is still being heard at the high court.

A case involving the former CEO of COCOBOD, Stephen Opuni is still pending in court.

This year, the apex court also put to rest the contention over former President Mahama’s decision to grant a presidential pardon to the 'montie 3'.

The Supreme Court upheld the presidential pardon granted radio show host and two others saying the power of President in this instance cannot be questioned.

Also, the Apex Court has set January 16, 2019 to deliver judgment in the case challenging the construction of the National Cathedral.

The plaintiff, James Kwabena Bomfeh, argues that Ghana is a secular state and it was therefore wrong for the state to be excessively entangled in any religion or religious practice.

But Deputy Attorney General, Godfred Dame, maintains a country that has for many years observed principal religious celebrations as public holidays cannot be said to be one that does not recognize the existence of a Supreme Being of God.

Just before the Christmas, the case involving En Huang aka Aisha Huang and four other Chinese alleged to be involved in illegal mining (galamsey) was brought to an end.

This was after the Senior State Attorney, Mercy Arthur, presented the application for nolle prosequi to the Accra High Court, presided over by Justice Charles Ekow Baiden.

Based on the application, the court discharged the five accused persons.

The immigration service subsequently deported the five Chinese.

With the funds made available for the office of the special prosecutor, 2019 promises to see the prosecution and trial of former and current government officials found to have caused financial loss to the state.