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Opinions of Sunday, 28 January 2018

Columnist: Samson Lardy Anyenini

Samson's Take: Lydia Forson knows her rights, you should too

There will be a natural expectation that My Take today will discuss what is said to be the absurdity in swearing in the Speaker of Parliament to act as President. In fact, a judge, with same expectation, broached the subject in court and sought the opinion of those of us who had come to do business.

I should, however, do this next Saturday armed with all the cases determined by the Supreme Court on the subject. I shall point out the obvious failings that have saddled us with the present situation of having to repeat the ritual of swearing in an acting president and creating a situation where the country technically and dangerously has two presidents at a time. So what am I talking about today? She shouted #iknowmyrights and curiously drew hate to herself.

Those who sought to abuse her for standing her ground don't seem ready to listen to her full story. Actress Lydia Forson posted a video in which she is heard shouting “I know my rights!” The story is that a team she was shooting a movie with had a rude encounter with a man said to be from National Security. She explains that this officer came upon them raving and ranting that they had to immediately move their rickety car from that part of the street.

This man would not even listen to the police officer who had been at the scene before he arrived. He allegedly shut this officer up when he attempted to explain the situation. Their car apparently had a problem and won't start. The lady who drove it would become jittery and confused as she was being shouted at repeatedly. Lydia reports, this continued for quite a bit and she got agitated and took out her phone to film this officer who was filming his encounter with the lady.

The officer who won't listen to pleas to be patient and to stop filming became angry. He ordered Lydia to stop filming him even though he hadn't stopped filming the encounter. He would attempt to violently take away her phone, hitting her hand and hurting her. Her critics insist she had no right filming the officer or making the intervention in the first place, because the team was on a part of the street where access was not allowed and/or that she obstructed him from performing his duties.

I would like to hear this officer tell his side of the story but until then, Lydia insisted rightly that she knew her rights and the officer violated same by his conduct. First, the team insists they had secured a permit to film in that area and that they had not offended as the officer claimed. That notwithstanding, the point of law is that, no security officer has the right to verbally abuse someone they suspect has committed an offence. What a Security officer has in such instance is a duty and not a right - a duty to arrest the offending individual, take her to the police station and process her for court where she will be offered the opportunity to either plead guilty or defend herself. This officer was not effecting an arrest which he ought to, having considered that an offence was being committed, and none was interfering with or resisting an arrest.

He was on a frolic of his own and did not reserve a right to abuse or film the encounter. Just as, in the circumstance, he could not film an individual without their permission, so could another not have filmed him without his permission. So he lost that right to order another not to film him without his permission having been filming without permission. But then which law prohibits filming an event in a public place?

A security officer with police powers and of the approved rank or authorization is allowed to arrest or search without a warrant only under specified conditions including that a crime is being committed in his presence, he is being obstructed in execution of his duty, the suspect is escaping from lawful custody or making an unlawful entry into a building or has stolen property in his possession. He was neither effecting an arrest nor was there the condition warranting same. It is if he was that he would have a right to exercise reasonable measure of force, not violent force to accomplish that duty if a suspect is resisting arrest. In fact, one commits a further offence by the resistance or interference.

I have through My Take given the education about what constitutes unlawful arrest or search which you have a right to and must resist. I have also taught that this power of arrest is even extended to civilians except that one is obliged to quickly hand over the suspect to a police officer or present him to the nearest police station. Know your rights! If an officer came to search your house, shop, etc, insist on seeing a warrant or authorization from his superior if he is not of the rank of ASP. Unless the Court states otherwise in the warrant, the search ought to be conducted on Sunday between 6am and 9pm.

It must be said that some persons who come in the name of National Security, grossly misconduct themselves by mistreating citizens and acting lawlessly. Recently, a person claiming to be from that ‘sacred’ outfit sought to assist an obvious girlfriend evict tenants whose landlord was this woman's mother who had just died. She had neither taken out Probate or Letters of Administration (LA) from the court nor did she have any court order of eviction. There was also no any prior notice to the tenants, as required by law, yet she had the support of an officer of State, who accompanied her to this house and they were throwing the tenants out.

I called the police and it took another police guard from a high place of power to assist his colleagues stop this man from his unlawful action against the poor tenants. I must explain that, when a person dies and you deal with their property, no matter how you relate to them, without first securing a probate (i.e.. where they left a Will) or LA (i.e. where they did not leave a Will - died intestate) you are committing the offence known as intermeddling – intermeddling is punishable by a fine of up to six thousand cedis or an amount double the value of the property and/or up to two years in jail.

You do know, as the report goes, that a police officer was at the scene earlier, he must have been inspecting or verifying their permit to shoot a movie in the area. He was silenced by this ill-behaved and lawless other officer said to come from National Security. The question has been asked that "if it takes lawyers, eight years to learn the law, how can we trust a cop to learn it in six months?". Well, one doesn’t need eight years to learn criminal law and procedure.

I know officers who really know their stuff and defence attorneys always pray they don’t meet them in a case, and these knowledgeable officers are often very professional in their dealings with civilians. They are few but most of them have higher education qualifications. It is therefore disturbing to learn that the Service has been recruiting fresh from outside the Service when seeking such class of officers. I say it is disturbing because it is refusing to recognize, promote and reward some five hundred of its officers who have on their own done further studies and obtained various degrees and higher qualifications including in law.

Their crime is that they pursued further studies at a time between 2011 and 2017 when there was a freeze of sorts on study leave for officers. This does not seem to comply with law as the Police Service Regulations promote a preference for internal recruitment for obvious reasons including retaining experience. This can’t be an incentive for determined officers who make the best of their spare time, and self-finance their further studies. Well, some are simply quitting and the Service would be the poorer if this is not quickly reversed.



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