An Appeal Court Judge sitting as an additional High Court Judge in Accra, Justice J.A. Kwofie has adjourned the criminal trial of Mr. Ernest Thompson and four others over the SSNIT OBS (Software) palaver pending the determination of a appeal filed by the defence at the Appeal Court.
At a previous sitting of the High Court, Counsel for Mr. Thompson and two other lawyers for the accused argued against the nature of the charges against their clients and demanded that 35 vital documents to aid their case, has not been made available to them by the prosecution.
At the Court’s sitting in Accra on Tuesday May 2, the Prosecution yet again failed to make available those 35 documents, providing only four (4) thus leaving out 31 more to furnish the court and the defence with.
In spite of this difficulty, a section of the media misconstrued this to mean that Counsel for the defence, was delaying proceedings at the trial and had in fact stated that they were against the continued trial of their clients.
What was the bone of contention was that Counsel for Mr. Ernest Thompson and the two others, insisted on their rights under Article 19 of the 1992 Constitution that an accused person is entitled to the details of the charges made or preferred against them.
At the Court, three (3) of the accused persons brought an application asking for more details i.e. more and better particulars on each count of the charges.
However, the trial Judge, ruled against them, warranting Counsel for the three accused persons including Counsel for Mr. Ernest Thompson, to file an appeal at the trial Judge’s Appeal Court against his ruling.
Operationally, what this means is that the Judge must stay proceedings pending the determination at the Appeal Court where he also sits.
The other issue in contention was SSNIT’s seemly delay in providing documents requested or their style (penchant) of providing same in piece meal.
What broke the camel’s back this time round, Court day on Tuesday May 7, was the decision by the prosecution to bring the requested documents on a CD rom.
They brought only four (4) documents.
There was however a lot of concerns raised by lawyers of the accused persons against the refusal or inability of SSNIT to produce all the remaining 35 documents needed for the trial.
The accused could not even open those CD Rom and there was also no list attached.
The Judge thus ordered the prosecution (Attorney General’s Department) to go and put it on a pen drive at least; and also file it properly before the Court since the High Court is a court of record.
As it stands now, there are over 20 documents out of the 35 still remaining, that SSNIT has failed to make available to the prosecution or the Court.
From the foregoing, it is deductible who might be aiding the course of the trial and who is slowing or snailing the pace of the proceedings.
At a previous sitting about a month ago and based on the court’s directive, the lawyers of the 1st accused, representatives of SSNIT and the AG department met to discuss how SSNIT would facilitate the production of these documents.
According to lawyers of the 1st accused, SSNIT promised to provide the remaining documents and even requested that an e-mail be sent to their reps to confirm the remaining documents.
This was done and even the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was copied. After almost a month, SSNIT only produced seven (7) documents and in court on Tuesday, 7th May only produced a CD Rom which the DPP informed the court contained only four (4) documents.
Not enthused, the Judge asked the Attorney General’s (AG’s) lawyers why the use of CD Roms in this modern age.
The CD Rom also had no list attached to verify what was actually contained on this compact disc (CD). The judge asked the AG lawyers to take the CD Rom back and present it properly.
Lawyers for the accused persons had informed the court that some of the requested documents were Board minutes and letters written by the current Director General, Dr. Tenkorang so they don’t understand how SSNIT can claim it does not or cannot find such documents.
The DPP office explained that SSNIT did not give any assurance that it will produce copies of the documents ordered by the court to be produced. However, since they had just given the accused the CD Rom containing four documents, they conceded that the accused will need some time to study these documents.
Stay of Proceedings
Further, the AG had not been served with copies of the motion for stay of proceedings. The case was thus adjourned to 21st May.
It will be recalled that the 1st accused person sought an order of the court, which was granted, for the SSNIT through the DPP to produce some documents to enable accused persons to brief their lawyers properly and also prepare the cross-examination and defence. Unfortunately, SSNIT keeps on producing these documents bit by bit / piece-meal.
Source :The punch newspaper