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General News Fri, 2 Aug 2019

Judge tells Opuni: I won’t stay proceedings!

Justice Clemence Honyenuga, trial Judge of the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, and two others, has refused a motion to stay proceedings of the High Court, pending an application at the Court of Appeal.

The application, the motion to stay proceedings, was filed by Samuel Cudjeo, counsel for Dr Opuni, first accused person in the criminal trial, standing trial with businessman Seidu Agongo and Lithovit Ghana Limited.

Justice Honyenuga, a Court of Appeal Judge, refused the application on the grounds that he refused to see any exceptional circumstances established by Mr Cudjoe to grant a stay of proceedings of the case.

Although a stay of proceedings is at the discretion of the trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga educated the defence counsel that exceptional or special circumstances must be established for it to be considered, but in this instance he failed to do so.

With this, the judge said, he failed to see any special circumstance to warrant the stay of proceedings to await the Court of Appeal to make its decision on the matter, adding, “The grant of an application for stay of proceedings is at the discretion of the court, and that discretion must be exercised judicially and not whimsically or capriciously.”

He continued that the mere fact that the interlocutory appeal was pending, does not justify or compel the exercise of the discretion by the trial judge, hence, made reference to the Republic versus Committee of Inquiry (RT Briscoe Gh Ltd) ex-parte RT Briscoe Gh Ltd 1976 1GLR page 166.

“In the instant application before me, I fail to see any special or exceptional circumstances to warrant my granting the application,” he said.

The defence counsel has put an application before the Court of Appeal, because the High Court ruled against tendering a document signed by one Dr Opoku Ameyaw that described the controversial agro product has liquid.

The content of Lithovit, as to whether it is liquid or powdery, has been a bone of contention at the court, which the defence side was convinced that tendering the document signed by Dr Opoku Ameyaw through the third Prosecution Witness (PW3), Dr Yaw Amoah, would have settled the matter.

But the court refused that attempt on the premises that Dr Amoah was not the author of the said document, and also, the defence counsel failed to compel the witness to identify the signature.

So Mr Cudjoe, in that respect yesterday, argued why the court must stay its proceedings, and indicated that the court basis for rejecting the document was on the factual basis that the defence did not ask the witness whether he was familiar with the signature of Dr Opoku Ameyaw.

Meanwhile, Opuni’s lawyer said he asked the witness specific questions such as “Who signed the letter” and his answer was “Dr Opoku Ameyaw,” stressing “My lord, this is a criminal trial and this particular document answers the question whether, in CRIG by extension COCOBOD, Lithovit is liquid or powdery.”

However, the judge, in his ruling, pointed out to him: “I must also state that the issue with this trial is not only about the form of Lithovit, but there are numerous other charges levelled against the accused persons.”

Justice Honyenuga furthered that the court had duly exercised its powers to a fair trial, as stated in the 1992 Constitution, and has not prevented any of the accused persons from putting across their case, and “I do not see any irreparable hardship which will occasion the applicant if the motion is refused.

“In the circumstances, I will dismiss the application,” thereby adjourning the case to October 7, 2019.
Source: thechronicle.com.gh
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