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Crime & Punishment of Friday, 15 February 2008

Source: GNA

Lawyers advised to stop quarrelling with clients

Accra, Feb. 15, GNA - Mr Kweku Y. Painstil, a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of Ghana, on Friday advised lawyers to avoid arguing or quarrelling with witnesses during cross-examination since this amounted to unprofessional conduct.

Speaking on the topic, "The Theoretical and Legal Basis for Cross-Examination in the Courts of Ghana," he said some lawyers were in the habit of quarrelling or arguing with their clients, adding that, such lawyers had not had any conference or interactions with their clients.

"Do not ask questions if you are not sure that the answers would be in your favour," the private legal practitioner told students and lecturers of the Ghana School of Law during the first academic seminar for the year.

Mr Painstil said cross-examination was the chief method for eliciting truth and exposing falsehood under the country's adversarial system of adjudication, yet lawyers were expected to do it in a professional manner that the witnesses did not feel intimidated.

"Do not ask a question unless there is a good reason for it; except in cases where your position is so bad that nothing can injure it, and something may improve it, do not splash about and do not ask a question without being fairly certain that the answer will be favourable to you. "If a witness is manifestly lying, leave him alone."

Mr Painstil said what was necessary to uplift the gradual fall in the standards at the Bar was for lawyers to do the necessary research and ensure that their homework had been done before embarking on cross-examination.

He said although it was important for lawyers to subdue evidence to support their cases it was equally unprofessional for them to be harassing witnesses in the manner that some lawyers were in the habit of doing.

Urging lawyers to submit themselves for practical experience, he said law had nothing to do with age but rather with practical experience.

"You may have the evidence but the presentation also determines the outcome of a case," Mr Painstil said.

He called on the General Legal Council to come out with a well-defined Code for lawyers in practice. Justice S.A. Brobbey, Justice of the Supreme Court, who also presented a paper on "What the Court Looks for in Cross-Examination," said judges normally observed things like how lawyers conducted cross-examination, the one being cross-examined, the nature of the case before the court, be it civil or criminal.

He said the Bench also looked out for the extent to which lawyers advanced their case, undermined the opponent's case, unexamined evidence and unchallenged evidence. Justice Brobbey advised the students and lawyers not to cast

insinuation, and ask unwarranted and excessive questions during cross-examination. Commenting on modalities of achieving result, he told the lawyers to distinguish between carelessness and slips, falsehood, naked lies, untruth and reckless pronouncements. Mr. James Ahenkora, a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of Ghana, told the students and lawyers that, to be able to conduct an effective cross-examination there was the need to master all the facts, materials and documents.

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