AG Bemoans Prejudicial Comments On Criminal Trial

Godfred Yeboah Dame

The Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has bemoaned what he described as the increased tendency for various persons, including members of the legal profession of considerable standing, to run extremely prejudicial commentary on cases pending before the courts.

The Attorney General (AG), in a press statement, indicated that while respecting the freedom of all persons in Ghana to comment on any matter including cases pending in court, his office has taken note that much of the recent commentary on many of the so-called high-profile criminal cases transgresses permissible limits of free speech, unduly interferes with the work of state prosecutors performing their constitutional function of prosecuting crime in Ghana, and tends to put unnecessary pressure on the courts.

Some of the case that have been the subject of unwarranted public commentary, according to the statement include but are not limited to, Republic vs. James Gyakye Quayson, who is standing trial for perjury, deceit and other charges, Republic vs. Dr. Stephen Opuni & 2 Others who are been tried for causing over GH¢217 million financial loss to the state, and Republic vs. Cassiel Ato Forson & 2 Others who are also in court for allegedly causing €2.37 million financial loss to the state.

The statement said the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice observes that many of the recent comments by various persons on some criminal matters, particularly those mentioned above “clearly exceed the bounds of acceptable speech as they seek to disparage prosecutors in the eyes of the public and frustrate prosecution of those cases. Some of the comments are orchestrated to pervert the course of justice and/or prejudice the fair hearing and determination of the cases.”

It reminded Ghanaians of the principle of the equality of all persons before the law enshrined in Article 17(1) of the Constitution. No person living in Ghana, citizen or non-citizen, is above the laws of Ghana or immune from an application of same.

“The Attorney-General’s constitutional responsibility for the ‘initiation and conduct of all prosecutions of criminal offences’,  implies a duty to prosecute a crime committed in Ghana, after proper investigations have been conducted, irrespective of the political, race, colour, ethnic, religion, economic or social status of the culprit. State Attorneys assisting the Attorney General in the performance of this hallowed constitutional mandate, operate under extreme pressure and are exposed to severe risks.

“They have the right to prosecute cases freely in a court of law just as private legal practitioners enjoy a right to defend their clients, free from abuse and attacks on their character.”

The statement further states that the decision to prefer a charge against an accused person is not made on the basis of a person’s political status, social or economic standing, but on the strength of evidence subject to the scrutiny of the courts.

The statement, therefore entreated the general public to permit the streams of justice to flow freely and uncontaminated by undue comments and pressure on the courts.

“The Attorney-General finally cautions that no immunity is conferred by a person’s position in Parliament, the Judiciary, Traditional Authority, the Bar, or any official position, from the consequences of an interference in the administration of justice or an attempt to overreach a judgment to be delivered by the court in any matter. We must respect due process,” it added.

BY Gibril Abdul Razak