Arrest: Let us all get the right orientations

Arrested Cuff Man File photo: A man in handcuff

Thu, 18 May 2017 Source: Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III

If there is an aspect of policing that is the most difficult one, it is probably arrest. It simply means to take someone into custody. Not just into custody anyhow but it should be lawful because Ghana is a democratic country.

Article 14(1)(g) cites the grounds on which a criminal arrest can be done and that is upon reasonable suspicion of having committed a crime, or about to commit a crime.

I still remember how I received a hefty blow in my right eye in the course of arrest. For days, my right eye remained reddened and also not forgetting how I was given a hot slap by another suspect in one afternoon. I had a swollen cheek for three days. I am not the only one but almost every police officer has a wide array of experiences when it comes to arrest. I remember how two of my colleagues who went to make arrest in one of the surrounding villages of Peki were themselves locked up by civilians in a room and beaten mercilessly until a civilian ran to the police station to complain. They almost killed them. Some of our colleagues have become incapacitated and some have even died because of arrest. Pray for police officers effecting arrests. Not an easy task my people.

The problem with us - both the police and the citizenry is the right orientations as far as arrest is concerned. We all get it wrong at times if not all the time. Sometimes the police violates the rights of the citizenry in the course of arrests and sometimes the civilians also resist arrest unreasonably due to sheer ignorance. Arrest of misdemeanour cases should never be a scuffle between a police officer and a civilian whilst felonious cases like robbery and murder should be approached with some kind of force since such suspects are always violent in nature.

The police officer effecting arrest should employ some mechanisms of psychology if possible to prepare the mind of the suspected criminals for it not to appear as if they have been condemned to death already without trials before a court of competent jurisdiction. In as much as people will want to escape justice after committing crimes, it is the duty of the police to employ laid down procedures of arrest to bring suspected criminals face to the full rigors of the law. If the arrest procedure is flawed, the accused person stand the chance to be discharged without recourse to the substance of the case and the weight of the offence. Just imagine as a police officer and after sustaining multiples injuries to arrest a criminal only to be discharged by the court that the arrest procedure is wrong? It's cos 90.

Section 3 of Act 30/60 otherwise known as the Criminal Procedure Code instructs that in making arrest, the police officer or other person making same shall actually touch or confine the body of the person to be arrested.

Again, Article 14(2) of the 1992 Constitution makes it clear that a person who is arrested....shall be informed immediately; in a language that he understands, of the reasons for his arrest.....and of his right to a lawyer of his choice. Here all that the law requires is that touch the person you are arresting and tell him or her in a language he she understands and why you are arresting him or her. You must also tell them their rights to a lawyer of their own choice. If you don't understand their language, get an aide.

In the celebrated case of ASANTE vs THE REPUBLIC (1972)2 GLR 177, Asante who has earlier on been convicted for assaulting a police constable in the process of resisting arrest was freed when he appealed against his conviction that his arrest was unlawful. His appeal was held that he is entitled to resist unlawful arrest. The facts of the case were that Asante who was then a driver was believed to have loaded his vehicle badly on a market day so the police constable was dispatched to have him arrested. In the process of arrest, a scuffle ensued between them leading to tearing of the constable's police uniform. In the course of arrest, the police constable never mentioned to Asante why he is arresting him. The sentence was quashed on the grounds that arrest was unlawful since the police constable did not tell Asante why he is being arrested.

Under no circumstances should the police or anybody effecting an arrest beat a person suspected of a crime if that person should surrender or avail him or herself to be arrested no matter how grieveous the offence is. To beat a person suspected to have committed a crime in itself is a crime of assaults and also some kind of instant justice contrary to the legal principles of a person charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved or has pleaded guilty, as stipulates by Article 19(2)(c). It is not the duty of the police to punish criminals by beating them.

However, a criminal is likely to be entitled to some "severe beatings" on the justifiable grounds that he or she resisted arrest lawfully. Resisting arrest unlawfully is the one that the body of the person is touched and told in a language that he or she understands and the reasons why he or she is being arrested, yet he or she resists it. In that case the law permits reasonable force which is often relative to be employed in the course of arrest should one resist it. In this instance, it is just a matter of when persuasion fails, force must be applied. Section 31 of Act 29/60 otherwise known as the Criminal Code cites grounds on which the use of force or harm is justified and that includes resisting arrest particularly in felonious cases -section 31(d & e).

A person arrested by the police or civilian with or without warrant should be sent to the police station as early as possible as instructs by section 9 of Act 30/60. Failure to send arrested persons to police station or a place designed for the reception of arrested persons amounts to assault by imprisonment contrary section 85(c) of Act 29/60. That is criminal and unlawful arrest. A person taken into police custody according to section 9 of Act 30/60 shall be given reasonable facilities for obtaining legal advice, taking the steps to furnish a bail otherwise making arrangements for his defence or release. If not, Article 14(3)(b) says that the arrested person should be put before a court within 48 hours.

By concluding it is onus on the police officer effecting arrest to know the provisions of the 1992 Constitution and Act 30/60 relating to arrest of suspected criminals. It is also the duty of the police to take into consideration the rights and dignity of the Ghanaian as the Constitution says in Article 15(1) that the dignity of all persons shall be inviolable. If you should arrest a person unlawfully, Article 14(5) says that the person shall be entitled to compensation from you.

This is democracy so let us all get the right orientations as far as arrest of suspected criminals are concerned. We will save ourselves a lot.

Just a police lance corporal.

Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III


Columnist: Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III