The Supreme Court has decided against imposing custodial sentences on two contemnors, embattled General Secretary of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Lawyer Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie and a Fellow Party Communicator, Hopeson Adorye.
The court however fined the two GH˘5,000 and GH˘2,000 respectively.
They are also to sign a bond to be of good behaviour for six or three months or in default serve six or three months in jail respectively.
President of the nine-member Supreme Court panel, Justice William Atuguba, who announced the decision, pointed out that the court took strong exception to the comments of the two Politicians and based its judgment and sentence on the gravity of those statements.
The two were represented in court by former Attorney General in the erstwhile Kufuor administration, Nii Ayikoi Otoo, who "profusely" apologized on behalf of his clients.
Reading out the ruling, Justice Atuguba said they are reluctantly constraint from imposing a custodial sentence, however that should not give people the license to go on making contemptuous statements.
Sir John who was sober throughout the proceedings, responded by saying he has been humbled by the baptism of fire he had received, when Justice Atuguba asked for his comments.
Sir John and Hopeson were asked to appear before the court following ‘contemptuous’ comment they are supposed to have made after Justice William Atuguba gave a final warning.
Sir John was quoted to have said on Oman FM that Justice Atuguba always wore a frown that made him resemble “a voodoo deity”.
In the summons issued to him, Sir John was asked to come and “show cause why you should not be committed to prison for contempt of this court, thereby scandalising the court, lowering the authority and credibility of this court in the eyes of the general public, and exciting hatred and ill-will towards 1st and 2nd respondent herein.”
It also quoted a portion of a publication in The Enquirer newspaper were Sir John reportedly said: “Justice Atuguba, by his actions, was up to hypocritical antics that is intended to lead NPP not to get the opportunity to play a tape recording of the Electoral Commissioner, Dr Kwadwo Afari- Gyan’s voice, declaring that ‘No verification, no vote’, so that the President can win the case.”
Hopeson Adorye on the other hand was quoted to have said: "We shall cut the heads of NDC supporters if Supreme Court declares President Mahama Winner”
He was therefore summoned to the Supreme Court to explain why he should not be sentenced for contempt.
Hitherto, Editor of the Daily Searchlight newspaper, Kenneth Agyei Kuranchie and a member of the Communication team of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Stephen Atubiga were on July 2, 2013 sentenced to 3 and 10 days in court respectively. They however have completed their jail terms.
Below is the ruling read by Justice William Atuguba
"Here is our ruling" :
“We find him guilty of Intentional criminal contempt of this court. Considering the ready admission of guilt by the contemnor and his nationwide education against contempt of court which we hope is genuine, and the prevailing efforts of the Ghana Peace Council and various religious bodies, the political parties themselves and the plea of mitigation put in strongly by his counsel Ayikoi Otoo, we are reluctantly restrained from imposing a custodial sentence on the contemnor.
We however cannot overlook the fact that the contemnor is a lawyer of 32 years standing and a high profile officer; general secretary of one of the biggest parties in Ghana and the threat to the public peace which his contemptuous degradation of this court can engender since it gives the impression that the organs of public authority need not be taken seriously.
We impose on him a fine of GHS5,000 or in default six months imprisonment. In addition, he should sign a bond to be of good behaviour for six months or in default six months imprisonment. He should also retract and apologise for his contemptuous utterances over the same Oman FM, the platform on which he indulged in them within 24 hours.”
“We find him guilty of Intentional criminal contempt of this court. Considering that he is a layman unlike Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, and considering his ready admission of his guilt but not forgetting the gravity of his threat and otherwise for the reasons of peace building by the stakeholders of peace referred to in the case of Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, we impose on him the fine of GH₵2,000 or in default three months imprisonment. He should also enter into a bond to be of good behaviour for three months or default three months imprisonment.”
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