The Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice has expressed worry about prejudicial commentary by some individuals and personalities on pending criminal cases before the courts.
“The Office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice has observed with serious concern 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, ” it said.
A statement issued by Godfred Yeboah Dame, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justices said some pending criminal cases had been the subject of” unwarranted” public commentary, including the Republic vrs. James Gyakye-Quayson, Republic vrs. Dr Stephen Opuni & 2 Others and the Republic vrs. Cassiel Ato Forson & 2 Others.
It said whilst respecting the freedom of all persons in Ghana to comment on any matter, including cases pending in court, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice noted that much of the recent commentary on many of the so-called high-profile criminal cases transgressed permissible limits of free speech.
The statement said the commentaries unduly interfered with the work of State Prosecutors performing their constitutional function of prosecuting crime in Ghana and tended to put unnecessary pressure on the courts.
The Office of the Attorney-General therefore reminded Ghanaians of the principle of the equality of all persons before the law enshrined in article 17(1) of the Constitution.
It said no person living in Ghana, citizen or non-citizen, was above the laws of Ghana or immune from an application of same.
It said the Attorney-General’s constitutional responsibility for the “initiation and conduct of all prosecutions of criminal offences” implied a duty to prosecute a crime committed in Ghana, after proper investigations had 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 said.
It said the decision to prefer a charge against an accused person was 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.
It noted that an acquittal of a person by the courts did not imply malice on the part of the Republic in the filing of a charge.
The statement said the perception that a crime committed by a person of high political standing in society should not be prosecuted was dangerous for society and must not be countenanced.
It said some of the comments were orchestrated to pervert the course of justice and/or prejudice the fair hearing and determination of the cases.
“The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, in the discharge of his duty to protect the administration of justice from abuse, hereby entreats the public to permit the streams of justice to flow freely and uncontaminated by undue comments and pressure on the courts,” the statement said.
“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,” the statement emphasised.