By Samson Lardy Anyenini
Celebrities, properly called, have such influence especially on the youth. It is expected that before you take on a cause, you will seek professional advice if it is not a matter for common social commentary. Today, I ask or repeat your questions, mostly uniformed, and educate you over your “#FreeAkuapemPoloo”campaign.
This case was concluded too swiftly because it was against a poor citizen; the law is against the poor. Well, maybe, sometimes. If you can’t afford a lawyer. But did she have a lawyer? Yes. She was arrested in July, appeared in court and pleaded not guilty and granted bail in November 2020. Why did she change her not guilty plea to a guilty plea on Thursday? Apparently, she changed her plea, obviously upon advice, after she and her lawyer had been, as required by law, served with the evidence the prosecution was going to use for the trial. Tell me if you were also given those documents to examine or what informs your loud protest that she should not have pleaded guilty? The evidence must have included her public admission and apology video – how was she going to defend that? Leave her lawyer alone!
How many issues have I dealt with so far? What did you want the court or judge to do after she pleaded guilty? What exactly do you mean by it was too swift compared to other cases involving prominent people? Which cases are you talking about and who has pleaded guilty and their case has not ended because they are powerful, connected or rich? But when did it become the job of the courts to go arresting people you claim must also be facing prosecution?
Except for a capital offence, once an accused person pleads guilty, a judge is constitutionally legally bound to convict and pass a sentence. The court is the creation of law and the judge works with the law.
Why was she remanded into custody after conviction when she was already on bail? You really want the rules changed just for her and why? A suspect has been brought to court, she pleads guilty and is convicted to wait for sentencing, and you are preaching the convict should be allowed to go home and not kept in the custody of the State? What will you think and say if she doesn’t show up for conviction, does anything or runs? Is this how you want convicts to be treated? Stop spewing absolute ignorance without deeper thought or a scruple principle!
How can you keep a single mother away from her child for two days? Okay, granted she, in fact, is responsible for the child 24/7; this will be the first time she will ever be away from the child for two days or even a month or more? Do we have single mothers in custody, in prison, or let them go when they plead or are found guilty of an offence?
Get this, the law mandates a judge to order a pregnancy test for a woman convicted before passing asentence. In the interest of mother and unborn child, the law mandates that if the test proves positive, the judge shall hand a non-custodial sentence or pass a sentence but suspend its execution until an appropriate time – meaning the pregnant convict does not go to jail. But if she commits another offence during the period; she will be made to serve both the suspended and fresh sentences together.
The judge acting within the law had the power to hand her the maximum of three years for the first offence, then a maximum of GHC 60,000 or plus two years each for the second and third offences. That’s seven years altogether, but she handed her 90 days for each offence and even that she ordered the sentences to run concurrently – meaning she serves only 90 days and not the total of 270 days.
The court had the power, taking all circumstances into consideration, to opt for non-custodial sentence of fine plus a bond to be of good behaviour or a caution. It is the court that was seized with the facts, and it must have been aware of your uproar and shouts decrying her conduct and calling for action when she first published those pictures – what hypocrisy of a confused generation in dire need of principles, a sense of decency and a scruple of morality. May the child survive the potential effects of what he was put through by her mother.
If you must continue your campaign for freedom, now is the time because a judge has no such powers to free a convict. The President wields the prerogative power of mercy to grant a pardon or reduce her sentence. Those of you preaching a wiser sentence would have been to put her to some work and public advocacy, there is no such thing as sentence to community service in Ghana.
Appeal? Ha! Well, that, in law, is also an avenue, not social media. The law provides deterrence which is not served by a fine in this case. Another judge may have handed her half or a quarter of the punishment allotted in this case to show even tougher love, which doesn’t kill. 90 days or more is the punishment for this in many countries. May the lesson be learned! But dear friends, by your new law, Cybersecurity Act 2020, A mere threat to circulate an indecent image for whatever reasons including blackmail or sextortion attract 10 to 25 years in jail. A judge has no discretion to give you less when you are caught by it. If you want only fines, get to work now with your MPs and not police or judges.