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Opinions of Monday, 17 June 2013

Columnist: Blankson, Nana Kow

Addison Runs Riot And Jabs Justice Baffoe Bonnie

By Nana Kow Blankson

June 15, 2013

The NPP’s lead counsel, Mr Philip Addison, has done it all in court. Using his bullying instincts he has fought the respondents of the on-going Supreme Court petition that is challenging the legitimacy of the 2012 Presidential Election results.

And Philip Addison’s antics and unbecoming behaviour seem to know no bounds. He has even extended his relentless fights to the nine justices of the Supreme Court by often seeking to challenge their authority and also questioning why they make certain rulings in the on-going case.

Mr Addison who has adopted unorthodox tactics in court and has gotten away with all except some mild warnings from the bench, finally poked his hands into the eyes of Justice Baffoe Bonnie, considered one of the safest hands of the NPP.

“Well My Lord, I hear you, except to say that far serious and stronger words have been used in this court without any comment from the bench. Criminality has been used to apply to us, not a word came from anywhere”, Addison spat those words at Justice Baffoe Bonnie without any fear.

Philip Addison meant to tell Justice Baffoe Bonnie of being mute about everything going on in court except when he hears him Addison saying or doing something unethical. Indeed that is what you get when you give a “loose cannon” like Addison enough room to operate I court.

You don’t need to be a “Learned Friend” to deduce that Philip Addison has succeeded in putting the “fear of God” in the nine justices sitting on the case because he says everything and gets away with everything.

Perhaps if Philip Addison had been called to order or reprimanded by the justices from day one that he adopted that kind of behaviour, things would not have gotten to where they are now. Philip Addison does not even care when he cuts off justices who want to explain something to him.

In one of those instances on Wednesday June 13, Philip Addison’s conduct compelled Justice Baffoe Bonnie to say that, “Please listen to me, when I’m talking you have to keep quiet. You see this message has been delivered so many times. Whatever you say, is to the bench. If you say you don’t trust, if you use any negative words, they impact negatively on the bench, so you shouldn’t be using those words, that is clear and simple. I don’t see why you don’t get it. I mean these…What, what, what can we be doing here if we have to be throwing words at each other? We can’t achieve anything. The people of Ghana want the truth and justice so if you have any… if you don’t trust them, this is not the way of going about it, keep it to yourself, this whole thing is being broadcast live and then the whole international community get to know that this is the language that is being used in the Ghanaian courts? I mean, clearly its wrong.”

But immediately after this admonition by Justice Bonnie, Philip Addison will not go away but lumped at Justice Bonnie by accusing him of turning a blind eye when the respondents use strong words but only comment when he Addison says something uncanny.

The behaviour of Philip Addison which left many people both inside and outside the courtroom holding on to their jaws and shaking their heads made the Presiding Judge, William Atuguba to issue the following strong warning, “Now, let us say this, it’s not everything that the bench must specifically comment upon. Sometimes a general statement is made that covers what has arisen. If it comes and no complaint is made or it passes we feel that ok…, but from time to time we do call attention that this matter should be avoided. I quite remember at a certain stage I clearly said that the slate had been wiped clean of these things, that there will be a fresh start and you know, we do not want to be petty-minded but the insinuation of what you’ve said is that the bench has not been fair to both sides, on equal terms, and that one, I do not think it’s a fair castigation of us. But the clear implication of this is that we now have to apply the rules of the ethics, the rules of courtroom procedure. We’ve always said that lawyers appearing, both at common law and all the statutes required of the legal profession act, are officers of the court. We have those powers to deal with the conduct of any lawyer appearing before us, so many – we can walk you out, we can deal with you for contempt, we can refer you to the disciplinary committee – all these are ample powers. But we feel that power is for the benefit of human beings and not for its sake… If you feel that we are failing in our duty and we start punching then that is not our fault. So ok, finally, and all you here are our witnesses, the slate, for the final time has been wiped clean.”

This unfortunate incident stems from comments made by Philip Addison that he does not trust the respondents especially the Electoral Commission when Dr Afari Gyan requested that he be allowed to cross-check an extract given by Philip Addison as the final voter register.

Mr Philip Addison who had hit “roadblocks” all day in his cross-examination of Dr Afari Gyan was emphatic in saying that he does not trust the respondents one bit as to leave his extracts with them.

The NPP counsel said these, ‘They seem not to trust me and they want me to trust them. I don’t one bit trust them. One bit, I don’t. The document can be in the custody of the court I will not let them take this document away. I will not let them take it away. I don’t trust them one bit, one bit.”

It was when the justices were getting nowhere in this argument with Addison that Justice Vida Akoto Bamfo expressed her unhappiness about the choice of words by Philip Addison.

But Addison in his usual snobbishness did not relent and fought Justice Akoto Bamfo in these words, “Well, My Lord I have said what has not been said, their attitude. I wanted my document, look at their attitude they put up here, it’s so sad. I’m sad. That they should even think that I’ll take this document and because I’ve doctored it. Really?”

Judging by the way Philip Addison is walking on everyone even including the justices, no one can predict to what extent Addison will head to. He seems to be running riot and taking his frustrations on everyone. In another breath Addison is behaving as if he is court for the first time, and did not anticipate some of the roadblocks he has hit.

We live to see if any sanctions would be applied to Addison if he goes wayward again, because Justice Atuguba did not mince words in issuing his last caveat to Addison following that spat with the justices.