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Opinions of Sunday, 11 October 2020

Columnist: Rockson Adofo

My difficulty with understanding the contempt of court case against Kennedy Agyapong

After several days of solemn cogitation about the current contempt of court case preferred against Kennedy Agyapong (Hon), I have decided to make my observations and views clear about it, although a layman as I am in the legal profession and court procedures/processes. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse, however, when you perceive to be intentionally frustrated by some people for reasons only best known to them, as a human being, you may be compelled to act in a way that may later be realised to be wrong. Two wrongs do not make right but at times, one must respond in equal measure and manner to be heard or understood.

I am obliged to quote extensively in attempt to make my views clearer to understand by public readers most of whom may be as laypersons in the legal profession as I am.

" Contempt of court, often referred to simply as "contempt", is the offence of being disobedient to or disrespectful toward a court of law and its officers in the form of behaviour that opposes or defies the authority, justice and dignity of the court".

"A contempt is indirect when it occurs out of the presence of the court, thereby requiring the court to rely on the testimony of third parties for proof of the offence. It is direct when it occurs under the court's own eye and within its own hearing". Again, contempt takes two forms, criminal contempt and civil contempt. "Civil contempt of court most often happens when someone fails to adhere to an order from the court, with resulting injury to a private party's rights. For example, failure to pay court ordered child support can lead to punishment for civil contempt. Actions that one might normally associate with the phrase "contempt of court," such as a party causing a serious disruption in the courtroom, yelling at the judge, or refusing to testify before a grand jury, would often constitute criminal contempt of court"

From the above, as per my research as a layman curious to understand the issue at stake, Kennedy is charged with indirect, criminal contempt, right? "Criminal contempt of court is a criminal charge which is employed to punish behaviour that interferes with the proceedings or orders of a court"

To denigrate a judge or the court following a court order or proceedings, makes one liable for citation for contempt of court. Therefore, the judge is right in his action. However, for an aggrieved judge to preside over a case that he feels has tarnished his image, in his own court, becomes more of a footballer who is a player in a game of football against another team but is at the same time an umpire. One can just imagine the outcome. No matter how fair the player is, some sort of doubt will be raised in the minds of the spectators as to how fair he is or will be. This is why it would have been prudent for another court to sit on contempt cases affecting certain judges. Nevertheless, the law does allow for such situations to take place, thus a judge who feels insulted by a contemnor to preside over the contemnor's trial.

The danger of conflict of interests in such situations is enormous. Nonetheless, the law allows the practice of a judge to try a contemnor who has offended him. This does not make sense to the ordinary person in the street but that is the law. Where then is the guarantee that such a judge will be fair but not emotionally biased when dealing with the case?

The punishment for contempt of court could be a fine or custodial sentence or both. A judge may pardon the contemnor considering some mitigating factors but not without warning or cautioning the contemnor to be of good behaviour.

Much as I expect the laws to work in Ghana, I will rather prefer to see the judges deal firmly with the hardened criminals abounding in Ghana if brought before them to having them concentrate their energies to making mountains out of molehill.

Some commenters on publications regarding the contempt case pending against Kennedy are happily but absurdly seeking a pound of his flesh. They will like to see the judge send him to prison in expectation that President Nana Akufo-Addo will step in to give him clemency; so they can equally accuse him of pardoning a criminal same as John Mahama pardoned the notorious "Montie 3". This equalisation they are seeking to prove Mahama right in what he did in the circumstances of the "Montie 3" is preposterous, to say the least. The "Montie 3" did not only tarnish the image of the Supreme Court but also, were planning to kill some Supreme Court Justices and also rape the Chief Justice. Can one compare apples and oranges to conclude that they are the same but not different fruits? No!

Kennedy Agyapong (Hon) for a number of reasons is admired by me. He helps the poor and the needy. He has created jobs for the people. He is a philanthropist. He is honest and on crusade to save Ghana from corrupt politicians and criminal or fake pastors and prophets. If we had ten of his kind in Ghana, Ghana will not be far from becoming like one of the developed Western countries.

I pray that the judge considers his positive contributions to Ghana and Ghanaians to tender justice with mercy.

It is he who has never been frustrated by the Ghana justice system that will not understand where Kennedy was coming from. I have had run-ins with my lawyers before and spoken harshly to them. I have had the occasion to publish my views about the attitudes of some judges that I found to be reprehensible and unprofessional.

It is up to us to boldly speak up if we really want to see Ghana progress. I am personally not scared about threats of lawsuits, and the stupid demands of huge sums of money when I see some Ghanaians sue others for defamation. We should not allow such threats to be used as weapon to cow us to allow rogues to continually plunder Ghana to the detriment of the Ghanaian masses.

Did Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, the General Secretary of NDC, John Dramani Mahama, the NDC flagbearer and presidential-candidate, and others, not pass derogatory comments about the ruling of the Supreme Court in favour of the Electoral Commission regarding the EC's decision to prepare a new voter roll for election 2020 and the NDC's resolute determination to resist it while preferring that the old voter register was used? Were they cited for contempt and if no, why? Are some people more human than others?

Much as I want the laws to work in Ghana for the better of all, I expect the judges to deal speedily fairly with bigger cases than minor cases. Some people are stealing millions of Ghana Cedis but the courts seem unable to deal with them but those stealing GhC10.00 and laptops are sentenced to seven to twenty-one years. This is ridiculous to say the least.

The NDC commenters wishing evil for Kennedy will never have their way. Kennedy will come out unscathed from any problems confronting him. His good works and kind heart will save him, by the grace of God.

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