Book Review: Sir Dennis Dominic Adjei’s Criminal Procedure & Practice In Ghana
The Attorney-General, to achieve speed in the corruption fight, ought to be arresting suspects and processing them for court. But does the AG exercise powers of police? Yes! If you never came across the law in Law School or after years of law practice, Sir Justice Dennis Adjei introduces you to or reminds you of this law at page 34 of his book – CRIMINAL PROCEDURE AND PRACTICE IN GHANA.
This is right in chapter one where he discusses the various stakeholders in the criminal justice enterprise, enumerating their unique and collaborative roles. You must be asking “but why do we not seem to have record of the AG exercising its powers of arrest?” Justice Dennis Adjei is quick and the first to introduce us to the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) in a textbook.
He points us to a change in law in not only empowering the OSP to enter Nolle Prosequi (NP) but also under mandatory obligation to assign reasons whenever he does.
He reveals a rarely thought of potential abuse of this special power against the court, accused persons and for the AG's unmerited benefit if the old regime is left unchallenged and unaligned to the condition under which the OSP must exercise NP.
We are introduced to a discussion on how the OSP now deprives EOCO (the Economic and Organised Crime Office) of part of its hitherto investigative mandate over specific serious corruption offences by section 80(1) of Act 959's amendment of section 74(a) of Act 804 by the deletion of “corruption and bribery” from the definition of serious offence.
These days, it is easy to tell that it has escaped many in the enterprise that the delivery of criminal justice ought to be hinged on procedure that passes muster in respecting constitutional and human rights of suspects and accused persons. In this book, we are reminded of and due attention is given to the legal requirement to construe criminal statute (Act 29) purposively and benevolently.
I have not gone past chapter three of the 484-page of the sixteen-chapter text. His discussion of the power of the Attorney-General, as a matter of law and criminal procedure, to appoint a legal practitioner as a public prosecutor makes one salivate, relishing the AG would elect such option in the fight against corruption. This resort could also be part of the practical solution to ritual complaints about overworked attorneys due to under-staffing and high attrition which is largely responsible, among others, for the unconscionably embarrassing delays in trials that ultimately work a huge criminal injustice to accused persons, continues to haemorrhage faith in the judiciary and justice delivery.
So, right there is the point of my choice of introduction to a review of this book; law students, law teachers and practitioners, judges and magistrates, prosecutors, policy-makers, and legislators will benefit yet again from Justice Dennis Adjei's usual approach to legal texts writing. We have acknowledged that he is a ferocious researcher. We are excited at his style of no funky language but straight-to-the-point discussion of the law backed by essential and current legal authorities. He relies on substantial amount of current Supreme Court decisions including unreported cases that settle otherwise controversial legal questions including the correct routes of criminal appeals, settled offences to be tried on indictment, and the mandatory requirement for Counsel who signs notice of appeal to cite Solicitor's Licence and Chamber Registration numbers. In chapter sixteen, he performs a most useful exercise under CORRECTIVE PROCEEDINGS.
He, for example, provides practical guidance to correct a common error in filing criminal appeals and spends some time on how judges ought to properly exercise the supervisory powers of the court.
In fact, this should be the first text book dedicated to Act 30 and providing sufficient coverage for many other penal legislations that attract the practitioner's regular attention. Every provision of the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Act, 1960 (Act 30) as well as various amendments have been discussed; the relevant criminal procedures found in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana; the Interpretation Act, 2009 (Act 792); the Courts Act, 1993 (Act 459); the Juvenile Justice Act, 2003 (Act 653); the Supreme Court Rules, C.I. 16 (as amended); the Court of Appeal Rules, C.I. 19 (as amended); the Ghana Police Service Instructions. It's comprehensive coverage represents a true reflection of the expansive nature of criminal law as almost eighty-percent of Ghanaian statutes contain offences and punishments.
It is an important departure from the regular limitation to Acts 29 and 30 which approach is incomplete and unhelpful to students, law teachers and practitioners, judges and magistrates, prosecutors, policy-makers, and legislators.
The various users receive a most essential guidance to remove uncertainties often encountered regarding the appropriate forum to commence an action as well as a cure for the dilemma particularly by judges and prosecutors on what to do when faced with two statutes regulating the same offence and punishment.
A prominent feature of this book is the author's incorporation of criminal practice into procedure. Here, his many years of successful practice as a lawyer, his role as a leader of the Ghana Bar Association (Ashanti Region), experiences as a teacher of the law and as Judge since his elevation to the Court of Appeal in July 2010 are abundantly evident from chapter one through to chapter sixteen. These influences from varied encounters with the law enrich his peerless insights informing his application of a flood of judicial authorities to bring home to even the unlearned mind an enjoying and unforgettable grasp of CRIMINAL PROCEDURE AND PRACTICE IN GHANA.
Ultimately, what I have endeavoured to condense into this brief introduction of a review, among others, is to confirm the author's careful attention to detail, depth of legal discussion, clarity in the presentation, excellent organisation of ideas, and a clear demonstration of a strong desire to influence change and enduring reform in criminal justice delivery in Ghana. This book must therefore be seen for the eternal gift it really is, more than being an easy and quick reference for criminal practice and procedure among students, law teachers and practitioners, judges and magistrates, prosecutors, policy-makers, and legislators in Ghana.
By: Samson Lardy Anyenini, Esq.