Public interest lawyer, Prof. Stephen Kwaku Asare, says the Attorney-General must bring criminal contempt charges against the Delta Force attackers.
In a post on Facebook, Prof. Asare said, “Raiding a courthouse, as occurred yesterday, is the ultimate and most egregious form of contempt. It does, would and should attract custodial sentence.”
About 50 members of pro-NPP group, Delta Force stormed a Kumasi circuit Thursday which tried 13 of its members for a violent attack last month.
They protested the decision of the court to remand the 13 who had been on bail into prison custody.
They hurled invectives at the judge, Mary M.E. Nsenkyire, disrupted proceedings and led the 13 suspects out of the court.
Prof. Asare has previously criticised particularly the Supreme Court for trying people on its own and finding them guilty of criminal contempt and imposing prison sentence on them. He has argued this is abuse of the court’s powers.
He, however, says, “Yesterday’s contumacious act differs from others that have exercised our minds, in recent times, in 5 key ways:
1. It is in facie curiae (contempt in the face of the court).
2. It is a violent attack, not speech.
3. It is directed at an inferior court judge.
4. It halted court proceedings.
5. It led to a “court break” by several persons on trial.”
He said, “Because it is in facie curiae, all courts, whether inferior or superior, can punish for it, and when possible, do so instantaneously, even by the judge whose court was attacked.”
“Of course, due to the violent nature of the attack, proceedings were halted yesterday rendering impossible an instantaneous ruling by the judge.
“Under the circumstances, the AG should now take over the case and initiate criminal contempt proceedings against the accused in a different court,” the Accounting Professor noted.
“Notwithstanding the horrible nature of the act, which all rational persons should condemn,” Prof. Asare said, “the accused are entitled to a presumption of innocence and to due process, including the right to an attorney and a fair trial.”
He said “It is likely that other offenses were committed in this cowardly and violent attack on the court. The accused should be charged with those as well.”
In his view, “the attack calls for an immediate evaluation of the security of our courtrooms. We must provide a safe and secured environment for our judges and other courtroom participants.”
“To sum up, this type of contempt is in a class of its own. It is the worse form of contempt. It must attract the maximum custodial sentence allowed under the law, if proven beyond reasonable doubt,” he concluded, signing off with his signature ‘Da Yie!
Meanwhile, the 13 who left the courtroom Thursday turned themselves in later Thursday night.
The judge has signed an order for them to be detained in prison custody as she decided in Thursday’s proceedings.