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Opinions of Friday, 12 January 2018

Columnist: Alhassan Dramani

Re: Police to compensate wrongfully prosecuted DV, DP number plate users

I have read from social media and other traditional media platforms a statement attributed to the Director General of police public affairs Directorate on the above subject.

Let me put on record, that I have not heard the interview purported to have been granted by him, and also have not had the opportunity or privilege to speak to the senior officer on whether or not he indeed said so. However I'm of the view that the officer may not have said exactly or meant what the story sought to portray.

My doubt is grounded on the fact that, the police Service as an institution has no power of its own to prosecute cases. All prosecutions are done under the authority of the Attorney General.

Under article 88(4) of the 1992 Constitution, all offences prosecuted in the name of the Republic of Ghana shall be at the suit of the Attorney General or any other person authorised by him in accordance with any law.

On the strength of Article 88 of the Constitution, section 56(1) of the Criminal and other offences procedure Act, (Act 30) of 1960 provides that subject to article 88 of the Constitution, the Attorney General may, by executive instrument appoint generally, or for a specified class of criminal cause or matter, or for a specified area, public officers to be public prosecutors, and may appoint a legal practitioner in writing to be a public prosecutor in a criminal cause or matter.

So, if indeed this is the true position of the law, then whatever that might have gone wrong in terms of prosecution, the AG might be impliedly responsible for any inconveniences caused to any member of the public.

Article 175 of the Constitution also provides that public funds of Ghana shall be the consolidated Fund, the Contingency Fund and such other public funds as may be established by or under the authority of an Act of parliament.

Further, article 176(1) of the Constitution provides inter alia that there shall be paid into the consolidated fund, subject to the provisions of this article

a. all revenues or other moneys raised or received for the purpose of, or on behalf of, the Government, and

b. any other moneys raised or received for, or on behalf of, the Government.

Court fines realized from all prosecutions under taken by the police on behalf of the AG and in the name of the republic are paid directly into the consolidated fund manage by central Government. These funds are not on any day paid to the police administration. So, the question to those attributing the statement to the senior officer is, is the police going to pay such compensation from its budget or is the police going to order the finance minister or central Government to pay such persons because the police thinks they were wrongfully convicted?

Talking about wrong charges and wrongful convictions, article 19(5) of the 1992 Constitution provides that a person shall not be charged with or held to be guilty of a criminal offence which is founded on an act or omission that did not at the time it took place constitute an offence.

To the best of my knowledge there has not been time in the history of this country where driving a DV/DP vehicle after 6pm is or was criminalized. In that case if anyone can prove before a competent court that he/she was prosecuted under this law then such a person may be entitled to compensation. Let me quickly add that in my experience as a police officer, I have not contemplated, heard or seen any person charged with an offence as "driving vehicle with a DV/DP plate after 6pm. Even in the unlikely event that, the police misunderstood the law and put a person before the law court with such a charge, I believe that our Judges are alive to their duties. They will not hear such a case let alone convict anyone on such a charge. I'm not a prophet of doom, but I believe not even a single person can be found or prove successfully in any court of competent jurisdiction that he/she was convicted on this so called offence. Any attempt to fish for such persons will be a complete waste of time.

On the issue of compensation article 14(5) of the Constitution provides that a person who is unlawfully arrested, restricted or detained by any other person shall be entitled to compensation from that other person.

Equally, clause 7 of this article says that where a person who has served the whole or part of his sentence is acquitted on appeal by a court, other than the Supreme Court, the court may certify to the Supreme Court that the person acquitted be paid compensation, and the Supreme Court may, upon examination of all the facts and the certificate of the court concerned, award such compensation as it think fit, or, where the acquittal is by the Supreme Court, it may order compensation to be paid to the person acquitted.

Going by the above, it's my view that the police has no jurisdiction in determining whether or not a person is or was wrongly convicted and whether or not any person merits compensation base on a wrongful conviction.

If anyone believes he/she was wrongfully convicted on any non existing law he must apply to the Supreme Court of the land or any appellate court for that matter for an appropriate determination.

It's my position that it does not lie in the mouth of the police to say that a person was wrongfully convicted and therefore, deserves or is entitled to any compensation. The constitution is clear on this matter, and no institution or person can change this.

This and other reasons is why I think that the media reportage on this subject, purported to be coming from the Director General may not be correct. The reporter I think may have misconstrued the comments of the officer.

Cpl Alhassan Dramani

CMTTD, Accra

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