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10.04.2007 General News

Don’t Use Media To Judge Cases - Justice Dotse

A Court of Appeal judge, Mr Justice Jones Dotse, has cautioned media practitioners and social commentators not to pass judgement on persons being tried for narcotic-related offences until otherwise proven by the courts.

He said since the media had a tremendous influence in shaping public opinion, it was necessary that care was taken in order not to whip up unnecessary sentiments.

Justice Dotse with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, said so far, he was pleased with media reportage on proceedings in the cocaine case involving Kwabena Amaning, alias Tagor, and Alhaji Issa Abass, except that those who sat on radio passed judgement as if they were judges.

Tagor is facing four counts of conspiracy, engaging in prohibited business related to narcotic drugs, buying of narcotic drugs and supplying narcotic drugs, while Alhaji Abbas faces two counts of conspiracy and supply of narcotic drugs.

They have pleaded not guilty to all the counts and have been refused bail.

Justice Dotse cited the Daily Graphic, the Ghanaian Times, The Daily Guide, The Chronicle, among other publications, as those whose reportage had been consistent with proceedings in the court but added that the action of some practitioners, particularly those who appeared on Joy FM's discussion programmes, left much to be desired.

The judge said their action amounted to contempt and if care was not taken he would let some of them appear in court to explain their actions.

He expressed those concerns last Thursday at the Fast Track High Court when the police investigator of the case, Detective Inspector Charles Adaba, testified under cross-examination by Mr Ellis Owusu-Fordjour, counsel for Tagor.

The police investigator denied that in his evidence-in-chief he had stated that Chris Kumi Asher, who was mentioned in the conversation which took place in ACP Kofi Boakye's house, had told him that Tagor's driver had bought a house from him (Asher).

According to him, Asher said that he sold a house to Nana Kofi, whom his investigations revealed was Tagor's driver.

When counsel asked whether the purchase was covered by a written document, the witness replied that Asher promised to give him the documents but he had since failed to do so.

Inspector Adaba disagreed with counsel that the purchaser of the house was not Tagor's driver and added that the police were still searching for him because he abandoned the house, which was located at East Legon in Accra.

The witness said he did not know the person who recorded the conversation which took place in ACP Boakye's house on May 15, 2006 and that he received a copy from the Attorney-General's Department.

He said he did not play the recorded conversation to offer Tagor the opportunity to either accept or deny that his voice was on the tape.

He also agreed with counsel that portions of the tape containing the recorded conversation were inaudible, while the secret voice recording of Tagor contained about four different voices.

Inspector Adaba disagreed with counsel that the secret voice recording of Tagor amounted to deceit and interrogation when the accused had said he would not give any statement in the absence of his counsel.

“I only prompted him to talk but I did not interrogate him,” the witness said, and added that at the time of the recording, the case was pending in court.

The witness agreed with counsel that prior to the secret meeting in ACP Boakye's house in 2006, the police officer, who was then the Director-General of Operations of the Ghana Police Service, had invited Tagor to his house, while the famous meeting in his house was to clear his name that he (ACP Boakye) did not go and steal the missing cocaine from the MV Benjamin.

Inspector Adaba disagreed with counsel that Mama Tess, the name which came up during the conversation in ACP Boakye's house, was an acronym, since so many people had that name.

He described as false the notion that nothing pointed to a particular Mama Tess who was identified, while the said Mama Tess was in the country and had not travelled abroad.

Story by Stephen Sah