A leading member of the ruling National Democratic Congress, Mr. David Annan, says the Bureau of National Investigations violates no law when they interrogate people in the absence of their counsel.
“The fact that Article 14 (2) (of the constitution) does say that a person who is arrested, restricted or detained must be informed in detail of the reasons for his arrest and the right to a counsel of his choice does not mean that after the arrest, restriction or detention and after them informing you of your right to the lawyer of your choice, that lawyer goes through every single procedure that then follows,” he said.
Mr. Annan argued that “from practice, counsel comes in when you have to write a statement, that has been the practice so far.”
“How about when you have to answer questions that may incriminate you,?” host of Joy FM's Super Morning Show, Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah asked him.
“If you give answers that incriminate, it is for your lawyer to before then…, tell you that 'do not answer any question which will incriminate you'. What answer will incriminate you is particularly within your own knowledge, you are the only one who knows what answer will incriminate you…so your lawyer is not supposed to be answering questions for you,” he responded.
The legal practitioner argued that lawyers are not supposed to be advising their clients when they are being questioned.
In Ghana, “The law is that evidence, no matter how it is obtained, is proper so far as it is relevant, in other words, the law is that improperly obtained evidence is entirely admissible in evidence in a court case provided it is relevant to that matter,” Mr Annan emphasized.
He however conceded that as counsel for notorious criminal Atta Ayi, he (Mr Annan) had argued that since his client had been interrogated in his (counsel) absence, the right of Atta Ayi had been violated and that the evidence gathered ought not to be admissible in court.
He contended that since the court rejected his arguments, they remained his personal views and that the decision of the court is the law.
Mr Annan also admitted sitting in while the BNI interrogated another client of his last year but explained that he approach the officials of the BNI with respect and that was why he was allowed to sit in the interrogation.
He maintained that depending on the level of interrogation, the BNI can interrogate a person without his or her counsel being present and would not have violated any law.
But another legal practitioner, Mr Ace Ankomah disagreed.
He said, “The right to counsel is not as hollow as David is putting it…that it is at the point of bail that” the counsel must be present.
“When you are arrested, at every stage of your being questioned, you are entitled to have the lawyer of your choice present or you (can) say 'I will not answer the questions if my lawyer is not present,'” he stated.
To buttress his point the articulate lawyer quoted extensively from the Ghana Law Reports, a case - “The Republic vs Otoo and Kwapong – saying, “They had been called upon to speak on matters which might incriminate them, they refused to speak, they were taken to court on contempt and the court held that no, you could not compel them to speak under those circumstances.”
Mr Ankoma submitted that the “most reasonable and sensible thing to do is to recognize the meaning of the right to counsel…the lawyer being there and being an advocate, he is not answering questions but he is guiding his client.”
Story by Malik Abass Daabu/Myjoyonline