General News Sun, 30 Jun 2013

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Supreme Court sentence on contempt is arbitrary - Former AG clarifies

Contrary to reports that persons cited for contempt of court face six-month jail sentences at worst, a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice says jail sentence punishment could be for a culprit's lifetime.

“For contempt, it is almost arbitrary. It is not defined,” Ayikoi Otoo said on TV3’s weekend news analysis programme Headlines, on Saturday, June 29, 2013.

Mr Otoo noted that as far back as 1968, the punishment for contempt of court was defined by his lordship Akufo-Addo.

The Supreme Court hearing the landmark election petition last Wednesday expelled Samuel Awuku, a Deputy Communications Director of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), from attending proceedings in court for statements deemed contemptuous.

The Court has also invited three persons – Ken Kuranchie, Stephen Atubiga and Kwaku Boahen – to clarify comments considered contemptuous. While Mr Kuranchie, Managing Editor of the Daily Searchlight, is to clarify a front-page comment on the June 27 edition, the other two, who are spokespersons of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), are to clarify statements many consider similar to that made by Mr Awuku.

A member of the NDC Communications team, Horace Nii Ankrah, who was also on Headlines was sympathetic towards the three, arguing that the election petition process is a novelty in the country and most people will be found guilty if the Court goes strictly according to its rules.

“The case itself is educating everybody. It is educating the justices themselves,” he said, pleading forgiveness on behalf of the cited persons.

Mr Otoo, however, said: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse. In any case, if you don’t know ask.”

He blamed hosts and producers of radio and television programmes, charging them to stop tagging discussants as NPP and NDC.

The former Attorney General said discussants should be invited based on their competence and referred to as such.

Source: tv3.com

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