The Supreme Court of Ghana has ordered the Attorney-General, Gloria Akuffo, to hand over all documents to former top officials of the National Communications Authority (NCA) and a businessman standing trial for causing financial loss to the state.
The Court also gave the AG the discretion to hold on to some documents on the basis of relevance and public interest. This discretion will, however, be subject to a review by the trial judge hearing the case or the Supreme Court.
The question of whether or not suspects are legally entitled to documents the state intends to rely on in prosecuting them has forced two high profile cases – one involving former COCOBOD Chief Executive Officer, Dr Stephen Opuni, and another involving four former NCA officials and a businessman, both at an Accra High court – to be put on hold as the AG and defense lawyers disagreed on which documents should be made available.
The trial of former NCA Board Chairman Eugene Baffuor-Bonnie and four others, charged with causing financial loss to the state, also suffered an indefinite adjournment in order to all the Apex court take a decision on the matter.
Defence attorneys had argued Article 19 of the constitution allowed an accused person to be afforded all facilities to put up his defence (including the list of witnesses and all relevant documents to be used and as well as those prosecutors do not intend to rely on).
The lawyers maintained the A-G was constitutionally obligated to furnish all the suspects with all the documents – whether the state would use them or not – relating to the cases against their clients.
A-G, Mrs Akuffo argued she was prepared to hand over documents the state would be relying on but contested the demand for all documents, be they relevant or not.
She said there was no law grounding their demand and that she was being magnanimous by offering to give them relevant documents.
Dissatisfied with the A-G’s position, the suspects and their lawyers proceeded to the Supreme Court for a Constitutional interpretation, forcing the lower court to suspend hearing into the criminal cases against the former government officials.
The Supreme Court in its decision read by Justice Sophia Adinyira Thursday, June 7, 2018, stated that the current restrictions in Ghana’s laws impede justice delivery.
The Court, therefore, ordered that all documents be handed over to the suspects and their lawyers except where there is a justification not to.
Deputy A-G, Godfred Yeboah Dame, said he was satisfied with the decision because it chimed perfectly with what the state’s argument had been.
Now the lower court can resume hearing of the substantive cases.
Story: Elizabeth AMARFIO
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