Joe Ghartey Former Attorney General (A-G) and Minister of Justice, Joe Ghartey has explained that the drivers who were released from prison before the December 28 2008 presidential run-off “was not done out of political expediency or arbitrarily, but in accordance with law”.
According to him, the only outstanding matter was the timing of the exercise and those “who want to give it a political twist are free to do so”.
He said during his term as the A-G, he issued a press statement which sought to outline certain developments in the Road Traffic fines and steps he had taken since July 2008 to correct the rising cost of penalties slapped on drivers.
The basis upon which fines were calculated, he added, had “increased the fines relating to road traffic offences six folds”.
Again, he admitted that the press statement assured those who had been wrongly fined or imprisoned that they would receive redress from the Ministry of Justice taskforce, a unit requested to liaise with the Judiciary to offer redress.
It was also to ensure that all prosecutors and courts were aware of the existence of the amendment to the Road Traffic Act.
The amended Road Traffic Act 2008, Act 761 which is now in force, Hon. Ghartey said, was sent to Parliament as a Bill in July 2008 and subsequently passed into law. It was signed by the then President, John Agyekum Kufuor, in September 2008 and gazetted on October 3, 2008.
“What purpose, political or otherwise, would it serve to continue to apply the old law when I as the then A-G had piloted the amendment?” he quizzed and added that when it came to “my attention during the election period, I had no other choice but to right the wrong”
The former A-G expressed disappointment that some magistrate courts were still applying the old law, Road Traffic Act 2004, Act 683.
Earlier, the Chief Justice, Her Ladyship, Georgina Theodora Wood, in pursuant to sections 52 and 53 of the Courts' Act 1993, Act 459, gave an administrative directive to the High Courts to vary and revise all motor traffic offences after October 3, 2008 where persons were dealt with under the old law even though the amendedment had come into effect.
A copy of the directive, signed by the Chief Justice, stated, “this is to bring to your attention the fact that the Road Traffic Act 2004, Act 683 has since October 3, 2008 been amended by the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2008, Act 761”.
“I am therefore directing all Judges and Magistrates to appraise themselves of the provisions of Act 761 and apply only the penal sanctions stipulated in the amendment i.e. Act 761 copies of which have been dispatched to all courts.”
By Nathaniel Y. Yankson