The case in which businessman Alfred Agbesi Woyome is standing trial for fraudulently obtaining a GH˘51.2 million settlement award would have been struck out by now in some jurisdictions, a law lecturer has said.
Mr. Ernest Kofi Abotsi of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Law School says the repeated adjournment of the case owing to prosecutors’ consistent failure to produce witnesses in court would not have been tolerated in other courts.
The case was adjourned for the sixth consecutive time this week after prosecutors pleaded yet again with the court for an adjournment because their witnesses were out of the country.
Thursday, the Court of Appeal ordered that all but one of Mr. Woyome’s bank accounts be unfrozen. They were initially frozen in the heat of the trial last year.
Speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Friday, Mr Abotsi said Thursday’s decision by the Court of Appeal could be an indication of the Court’s growing weariness with the prosecution’s delay tactics.
He said although Thursday’s ruling may not have a direct impact on the substantive case, it has to be borne in mind that “the possibility of acquittal is something that is real and therefore in the end he [Woyome] might be found not guilty and if he is found not guilty, he should not have been unduly put through a lot of hardship and difficulties.”
Mr. Abotsi said the substantive case stands to suffer further delays because the newly appointed Attorney General may have to settle into his role before the case can proceed.
"The wheels of criminal justice grind particularly slowly and the reason for that is to ensure that people are not convicted in haste because you might just up finding that some evidence was not properly assessed or that the court did not take its time to listen to all parties," he said.
Nonetheless, it is regrettable, he said, that in Ghana the "courts tend to take multiple adjournments usually at the behest of the state. It doesn't have to be like that. In fact, in some jurisdictions, the case would have been struck out by now because the state is not ready."
According to him, the courts do not tolerate unnecessary delays "because when you have made a decision to prosecute someone, the understanding is that you would have gone past certain preliminary clearances; certain evidence would have been assessed...which means you have initial evidence and initial basis to prosecute and therefore you would not unduly delay the case given the fact that you actually started the case or you actually made the determination that somebody should stand trial."
He said the Court must come down heavily on the state and the Attorney General the next time they appear before it.