The Court of Appeal on Monday saved the necks of the Managing Director of Trasacco Company Limited, Mr Ian David Morris, and nine others who had been jailed 45 days by an High Court for contempt of court.
The contemnors, who had earlier in the day worn distressed faces at the lower court, were, within less than eight hours, smiling out of the Court of Appeal.
They left the court premises around 5.30 p.m. with smiles after the court had granted an application for bail filed on their behalf by their lawyers.
Morris had been convicted alongside two of his directors, Cinzia Ines Taricone and Ernesto Taricone.
The other appellants were Alhaji Mohammed, CEO of Magnum Force Security Company, Adwoa Omari, Managing Director of Empire Builders Limited, Winifred Kumodzie surveyor of Empire Builders Limited and Trasacco Company Limited, George Akakpo, Head of Security, Empire Builders Limited and Trasacco Company Limited.
Trasacco Company Limited, Empire Builders Limited and Magnum Force Security Company Limited were convicted as entities by the court, which found them guilty for trespassing on the lands of residents and developers of Nmai-Dzorn, a suburb of Accra.
The 10 had, on November 5, 2007, escaped jail after they were convicted for flouting the orders of a competent court of law by trespassing on the property of Nmai Dzorn Residents Association when their counsel's application for bail was granted.
However, at the court's sitting in Accra on Monday, all odds turned against them when the court refused to grant them bail pending the outcome of an appeal against their conviction.
In less than four hours after their conviction, lawyers for the appellants, namely, Mr Ayikoi Otoo, Mr. Kofi Peasah-Boadu and Mr David Kudzoadji, filed an application for bail pending the outcome of the appeal against their clients' conviction.
Their case was instantly listed before a panel of judges and heard.
The court, presided over by Mrs Justice Henrietta Abban, with Mr. Justice Samuel Marful-Sau and Ms Mariama Owusu as panel members, heard the ex-parte motion for bail filed on behalf of the appellants by their lawyers.
Counsel for the appellants argued that the lower court had no jurisdiction to hear the contempt case because there was no formal transfer of the case which was then at the Tema High Court to Accra by the Chief Justice, as was required by law.
Counsel had also argued that the appellants were not parties to the suit which was filed against the Nungua Stool by the Nmai Dzorn Residents Association, adding that the appellants bought the land from the Nungua Stool before judgement was given against the stool in 2003.
The court after listening to the arguments of the appellants, held that counsel for the appellants had raised very salient legal issues which needed to be looked at.
It also held that the sentence against the appellants was short and if they were allowed to serve their sentence, they would have completed serving it before the appeal would be heard, thereby constituting a substantial miscarriage of justice.
The court accordingly, granted the appellants bail in the sum of ¢500 million each with a surety.
On November 5, 2007, the Accra High Court sentenced the MD of the estate developing company and the nine others after convicting them for contempt of court but they were not put in custody because the court granted each of them ¢500-million self-recognisance bail following a notice of appeal which was swiftly filed on behalf of the contemnors by their former counsel, Mr Kizito Beyuo.
The High Court in 2003 gave judgement in favour of the applicants against the Nungua Traditional Council which happened to have sold the land to Trasacco Company Limited and Empire Builders Limited.
In the substantive case, the Nmai Dzorn Residents Association said they took a writ of possession of the land in 2003 but the appellants forcibly and brutally took over the land.
They stated that the appellants were very much aware of the court's judgement which declared them the rightful owners of the land but the appellants still went ahead to take over the land.
According to them, the appellants were currently building a wall around their clients' property and that prompted the applicants to file a motion of contempt against the contemnors.
Meanwhile, an Accra-based legal practitioner, Mr Bright Akwetey, has said the man¬ner in which the Appeal Court was quickly constituted to sit and grant bail "looks funny and fishy".
He said even in a stay of execution, the process was for the defendant's lawyer to serve it on the lawyer of the other party, that is, the plaintiff.
He said subsequent to that, the plaintiffs' lawyer would then file an opposition to that, and that, according to Mr Akwetey could take a few days and not a day, for the documents to be considered before the court was constituted to take a decision on granting bail.
He said the way in which bail was granted was suggestive of how the legal system was being manipulated by "big people".
''This Shows that big people are not amenable to justice," he said.