I have changed the name of my five minutes segment from Samson’s Take to ANYENINI LegalLight. I introduced it three years ago to, purposefully, fill the time my guests take to get ready to join the show especially as they would often be a few minutes late. The response has been enormous and I commit to continue sharing the bits of law I know. Knowledge empowers.
Knowledge of the law super empowers us to conduct our everyday business in confidence and to avoid trouble. Today, let’s learn about that animal contempt. Hopefully, this helps you make meaning of the ongoing contempt case against Kennedy Agyapong. Contempt of court essentially entails willfully disobeying, disrespecting, scandalising the court, or engaging in acts to prejudice or interfere with the administration of justice.
We no longer live in the jungle of survival of the strongest. So imagine you put your life’s savings into a land and the court-ordered someone, unlawfully, taking it away from you to stop developing it and he decided not to comply. It is the court’s power to throw him into jail for contempt that will force him to stay off. The court will lose the power to resolve disputes in a civilized manner if people won’t be punished for scandalising it or disrupting a court session and hurling insults at a judge because they disagree with him.
The knowledge that even the lower courts could throw you into prison for six months and/or exact a fine of GHC 600 for your failure to honour a summons, refusing to answer questions or to produce a document forces the right conduct to enable the courts to administer justice. Contempt of court is therefore in our individual private and collective interest. It is a coercive power of the State that keeps those who do not want to live by the rules of civility in check. It gives expression to the equality before the law mantra.
Acts of contempt that do not happen in the face of a judge but outside the courtroom are punished by a judge other than the one who is directly personally affected. In an ongoing civil case, the law directs that a litigant may bring the act of contempt to the attention of the court by initiating the process or the court can, on its own, initiate it. The infamous election petition and ‘Montie’ three contemnors were punished for scandalizing the court, insulting and threatening judges.
That is pure criminal contempt, and insulting judges may be punished as an offence attracting a jail term of up to three years. The best procedure that respects the fundamental principles of giving an accused person the opportunity to defend himself and not allowing a judge to act as complainant, prosecutor and judge, is for the Attorney-General to initiate the process before a different judge.
My respect for Atta Akyea hit the roof when he insisted on this procedure as established in the Liberty Press case even at the peril of his client going to jail. He told the Supreme Court that place was not a “mercy chamber” to require people to come begging for mercy, but a place for justice. Ace Ankomah, for many years, called for the law regulating contempt.
India passed a Contempt of Court Act in 1971; the UK did so in 1981. Can we do this now to better regulate this all-important-justice-holding-power of the State, and to avoid abuse and the confusion generated whenever it catches public figures?
Here is your Legal Light
Samson Lardy ANYENINI
October 17, 2020
- Bantama SDA Primary Headmaster shot dead by suspected armed robbers
- Playback: Akufo-Addo delivers 25th address on measures taken against Covid-19
- Cameron Duodu: Sɛbe o, tafrakyɛ, na ‘Ɔte K’ɔkɔɔ Soɔ’ deɛ, yɛbɔ n’ano sɛn? – With all due respect, how can the occupant of the Golden Stool be silenced?
- 10-year-old boy allegedly commits suicide at Dambai
- Fuel prices to go up again – Chamber of Petroleum Consumers Ghana
- Kokomba warriors kill human-attacking antelopes
- Man loses lower lip during fight with friend over GH¢18.00
- 7 people electrocuted, 5 others injured at Amanfrom
- African Ministers of Health endorse and support Africa Common Position on Covid-19 passport
- Stephen Appiah tells full story of how his son, Rodney joined Olympics
Chelsea thrashed by Barcelona in Women’s Champions League final
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson pays tribute to father after scoring winner
Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to win Italian Open final in Rome
Zinedine Zidane denies telling Real Madrid players he will leave
Suarez rescues Atletico on dramatic day in title day
Armed men attack NPP Communicator
Akufo-Addo applauds Ghanaians for adhering to Covid-19 protocols
Ghana saved $1.4 billion from deferring 3 Power Purchasing Agreements – Energy Minister
Covid-19 pandemic- All non-essential trips to high-risk countries should be postponed – Akufo-Addo
Full text: Akufo-Addo’s 25th address on measures to deal with Covid-19 pandemic
Hologram, QR Code to authenticate full vaccination status of Ghanaians
2nd dose of Covid-19 vaccines to be deployed from May 19- Akufo-Addo
Government is making all efforts to achieve overall vaccination target – Akufo-Addo
Playback: The Probe, discusses Ghana’s 2nd vaccine roll-out and Quest for Herd Immunity
Projects by government to solve energy crisis near completion – Matthew Opoku Prempeh