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Opinions of Saturday, 3 February 2018

Columnist: Samson Lardy Anyenini

Samson's Take: Otiko Djaba spoke law not her opinion

I intended to share a piece on what is said to be the absurdity in swearing in the Speaker of Parliament to act as President when the President and Vice President are both outside the country. I shelved that because a couple of good friends, especially Justice Srem-Sai and Clement Akapame, both teachers of law at GIMPA, have done an even better job on the subject.

I had heard Gender Minister plead that we don’t encourage begging and what has become known as streetism by giving money to those lining up on our busy streets begging. I realized coincidentally, that Mrs. Awuni Azure agrees My Take should be about this subject. Read her article here…

It is a law open to many exceptions, but what is clear is the police have a duty to arrest persons who beg for money on our streets. Beggars and destitute are forbidden from being on the streets, because begging for money is an offence punishable by a fine of up GHC 1,800 and/or three months in jail. The law does not only punish beggars, but those of us who encourage it are also liable to same sanctions when put before a court and found guilty. It is intriguing that this law has been with us as far back as 1957 as an Ordinance and later the Beggars and Destitutes Act in 1969.

It is sad that laws such as the one against littering our environment, are not enforced. Soliciting money for charitable events or doing on the basis of religion or custom is not an offence, but the onus is on the person when arrested or put before court to justify the solicitation or receiving of alms or why he or she is encouraging such act.

In fact, you will be held liable to suffer the same punishment if it is established that you permitted the prohibited act when you had control over the place where it is done or control over the person doing it.

Guess what? The police are empowered to arrest such persons without a warrant. They are, however, not to arrest juveniles for begging because the offence does not extend to them. You may shout “that’s bad law!” But what we often forget is that under the FCUBE, it is compulsory for a child of school-going age to be in school, and those parents or guardians who permit their children or wards to loiter the streets are committing acts equally punishable as offences.

The law also punishes “[a]ny person found wandering about and unable to show that he has any settled place of abode or any employment or visible and sufficient means of subsistence…” Well, such persons are deemed destitute and expected to be placed in the appropriate institutions of car. It must be said that the State is also expected to do its duty of ensuring such institutions exist and also make sure that we have places for idiots who are taking over some of the streets.

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