Four members of the Kumasi Club, a 93-year-old social club in the Ashanti regional capital, narrowly escaped custodial sentence after they were convicted of contempt by a High Court in Kumasi.
The four - Kwame Brenyah, Norman Owusu Barnie, Charles Asabere and Henry Asumadu - were sentenced to two weeks imprisonment each upon their conviction.
However, upon an immediate application for a review of the custodial sentence by counsel for the respondents, Mr Asante Krobea, the court presided over by Justice Ali Baba Abature reviewed the sentence to a fine of GH¢6,000 each or in default, they would go to jail for two weeks.
The four were found to be in contempt of the court for going ahead to hold a meeting of the club while there was a case pending before the court disputing the eligibility of the convicts as club leaders.
The Kumasi Club, formerly known as the European Club, draws its membership from highly trained professionals living in the Ashanti Region.
In his application for the review of the sentence, Mr Krobea told the court that one of the convicts was incapacitated while another was also very advanced in age.
Counsel said with the increased rate of the coronavirus infection, it would not be good to impose a custodial sentence on the convicts and therefore prayed the court to review the sentence to a fine.
Even though the applicants’ lawyer, Mr. Justice Abdulai opposed the application for review of the sentence and rather prayed the court to increase it, Justice Abature acquiesced to the application by lawyer for the convicts and accordingly reviewed the custodial sentence to a fine.
In March, this year, the chairman of the Kumasi Club and three others applied to the High Court to cite the convicts for contempt of the court when they failed to wait for the outcome of a pending case at the high court, challenging them as directors of the club and went ahead to hold a meeting to remove the applicants as directors of the club.
Aside from this case, the applicants also averred that they filed a motion of injunction to stop them from going ahead with the said meeting and to await the outcome of the substantive case.
In his ruling, Justice Abature noted that the main objective of the offence of contempt of the court, was to protect the dignity of the court.
“It is in the general interest of members of the community that the authority vested in the court to protect them is not trampled upon. Any act which therefore seeks to emasculate the authority of the court should not be countenanced. The members of the community must at all times have confidence and hope in the authority of the court to deliver justice”, he said.
He explained that contempt of court was to prevent unjustified interference in the authority of the court.
“It is not to protect the dignity of any individual but the overall dignity of the justice delivery machinery,” he said.
Justice Abature added: “Thus, by the respondents having knowledge of pending action to stop them from getting involved in the administration of the Kumasi Club as directors pending the outcome of the substantive matter between them and the applicants on the affairs of the club at the High Court, but still went ahead to hold a meeting when there is a pending litigation about that very act, amounts to contempt of the court hearing the litigation at hand.”
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