THE HARD TEETH OF CONTEMPT -ASK
In my limited academic training, I have not had any legal training that should qualify me to interrogate positions taken by legal luminaries and especially Judges.
However, in the little I have ever known about the specialised profession, law is based on common sense, the basis upon which inferences can be drawn to comment on judgements passed by the courts.
Again, in a few Facebook posts I made over the past few days, I acknowledged the fact that judgements, no matter how they come, still remain opinions of Judges which are eventually backed by law for execution. I say this because, even before a final judgement is passed on issues, there is a possibility that two judges would have different opinions and for that matter, different positions on the same issue before them.
Having admitted that we all have and share different opinions at same instance, I will proceed to subject the recent ruling from the Supreme Court on the Montie trio who were incarcerated for comments made which were regarded as contempt of court the basis upon which they have been slapped a four (4) month custodial sentence.
In no attempt to justify the comments made by the individuals which have widely received condemnation from even the individuals involved, one can look at the happenings after the comments were sighted and the eventual passing of final judgement on them.
It is difficult, at least, from experience from the election petition hearing when some individuals were sighted for contempt, to want to appear before judges to show off even when you may feel justified for an action taken that is considered contemptuous. The show of power, the apparent reduction of weighted individuals to the status of chaff during those few trials of contempt, was enough to send anyone on a chicken-beaten-in-rain posture when sighted for contempt.
Much so, when it comes to issues of contempt, my understanding is that, the law emanates directly from the bosom of the presiding Justices making it difficult for procedural challenge. A culprit of contempt or his lawyers would be unable to match the procedures a judge may adopt in contempt trials as they are directly at the discretion of the judge.
This becomes much difficult appearing before a jury, and a judge, an arbiter and final person to decide on the state of a case before him or her. Perhaps, its about time the legal luminaries begin looking at such instances where cases of contempt would have a prosecutor separate from the judge enabling culprits a slight opportunity of fair trial.
That said, it is important to understand that judgements and sometimes processes become precedents for future references on cases of similar nature.
In our modern times, cases of contempt have had precedents set. Indeed, over the last 4 years, and I say so because am not a lawyer to know the legal records on such cases, we have had a maximum sentence of 10 days and some fine slapped on individuals brought before the courts on contempt.
Indeed, a slap of four (4) months with an additional fine of Ghc10,000 to be paid by close of the following day by individuals who are to head to prison immediately after judgement is a precedent that would be much tougher for future justices to comprehend.
Considering the case, these were individuals who had shown remorse, and had proceeded to apologise to the justices. These were individuals who appeared before the courts by merely hearing they were being sighted for contempt even before they were appropriately served. Compared to a lawyer of a general secretary of a party, who had never admitted having made comments for which he was invited to the courts, a lawyer who never bothered to apologise, but who was allowed to walk away with a minimal fine.
If we are to look at the weights of the various offenses, in the case of the trio, they have no legal training, they do not trade their profession before these judges. Compared to Sir John who had legal training, had 32 years of experience in trading his profession before the judges, but who could warn family members to start preparing the funeral of these judges. How the funeral of judges could be prepared without them dying, is a matter I would leave to you readers.
For me, the gravity of the crimes of these separate individuals should weigh more on a lawyer than ordinary citizens even if the comments made are of the same value. Having a legal practitioner less punished as against ignorant citizens on law, is much of an event that defeats common sense; the basis upon which law must be applied and interpreted.
There is a subject currently in the public, to grant or not to grant presidential pardon. It remains a fact that the prerogative to grant pardon resides with the president which can be invoked upon the advise of the Council of State. That power cannot be taken away from the president. Indeed, all that he requires is that a person has been convicted for an offense.
We live in a country in which we expect two forms of treatments for the same citizens. When a specific law is applied in favour of one political party, it is good but when applied to another set of people in another political party, it is wrong. Some would not even relent on proceeding to court to interrogate the capacity of a president to invoke certain powers that were invoked by presidents in the past.
How people who boycotted the drafting of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana have come to understand the application of the constitution than those who even drafted it, remains a subject of confusion to me as a writer on this subject.
If the minority in parliament could appeal to the president to grant presidential pardon to their own Adamu Sekande to be released a few years into his total jail term, it wouldn’t be wrong for others in the ruling party to appeal to the president to grant same prerogative of mercy to their own. After all, they are equally humans.
Yes, the trio have made comments unacceptable. They have not been praised by any in the National Democratic Congress. They were all condemned. They apologised and it was refused. They were jailed a maximum sentence never in our national life on contempt. In the protection of the lives of the judges, they were jailed. I deserve to live equally as a member of a tribe of which a member of parliament declared war on. If such a person was freed to walk with me on the streets because the judges saw nothing wrong with such threats on my life, who protects my right to live?