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General News of Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Source: Peace FM

Contempt law must be redefined - Kwesi Pratt

Kwesi Pratt has called on the framers of the law to define the law of contempt properly.

According to Mr. Pratt, the law seems to give unfettered power to the Judges to be prosecutor and jailer in their own case.

Mr. Pratt recounted that in criminal cases which involves a relative or comrade of a Justice, it's appropriate that the Judge recuses him or herself and so wondered why when it comes to the law of contempt, the judge rules in his or her own case.

There should be a redefinition of the "contempt laws properly and establishing proper processes for dealing with contempt cases; establishing clear parameters because the Judges are also humans. What embitters you also resents a Judge."

To him, it's a matter of principle that Judges should not be made to rule in cases of contempt when it concerns them.

"If a Judge is threatened; can he/she hear that case? Or if a Judge is demeaned, can he/she sit on the case? This is a matter of principle and it has nothing to do with the conduct of the Montie 3. It’s a matter of principle...Why is that when it comes to contempt, the Judge that the matter concerns; is the Police, Prosecutor and Jailer? It’s an issue that we all have to contemplate,” the Senior Journalist said.

Speaking on Peace FM's Kokrokoo, Mr. Pratt also touched on Article 72 which mandates the Head of State to intervene in the sentence of convicts.

The Article grants the President the power to pardon or remit the sentence of an offender.

According to Mr. Pratt, it appears that discussions regarding the Article 72 has been limited because it is not just about a Presidential pardon but also has other sections where the President can take other decisions to lessen sentences.

“If the President wants to grant somebody pardon or remission of sentence or use any of those four categories under Article 72, first of all, I think he must receive a petition. When he gets a petition, he has to give the petition to the Council of State for consideration and the Council of State will then advise him as to how to proceed. That is the process there. There is no arbitrariness. No arbitrariness at all. President cannot exercise that power on his own unless we think the Council of State can’t do their work well.”

He further explained some implications of leaving the ruling of contempt cases to the discretion of Judges.

Mr. Pratt was also keen on the extent to which when a media house is charged with contempt, owners of the house also become a target for the Judges.

“The responsibility of the owners of media houses and presenters and so forth, they’re though responsible, but it shouldn’t carry the same weight and that must be properly defined. It should not be left to the discretion of just Judges. Because if you leave it to the discretion of Judges, some Judges may even decide to impose harsher punishments on owners than presenters and as the law stands now; nothing prevents that from happening," he stated.