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25.11.2008 General News

Anyaa Warehouse Owner Granted Bail

Anyaa Warehouse Owner Granted Bail

The owner of the warehouse which caught fire and resulted in the death of seven persons was yesterday granted bail in the sum of GH¢100,000 with two sureties to be justified.

On November 17, 2008, around 6.30 p.m., the warehouse, which is situated at Anyaa, a suburb of Accra and was said to contain explosives and fire crackers popularly known as 'knockout', caught fire and in the process killed seven persons and injured several others.

Janet Akani Sarbah, 40, a trader who deals in toys and explosives, is expected to reappear before the court on December 3, 2008.

Janet, who was accompanied by her husband and a large crowd of family members and sympathisers, left the court premises in tears after she was granted bail.

According to her counsel, Mr Frank Davies, Janet collapsed upon hearing of the incident and it took 24 hours to revive her, adding that his client reported to the police immediately after she was revived.

Mr Davies applied for bail after the prosecution had declined to take Janet's plea on the grounds that the docket on the case had been forwarded to the Attorney-General's Department for advice.

An Assistant Commissioner of Police, Ms Elizabeth Allandu, had prayed the court to remand the accused person because the docket had been forwarded to the Attorney-General's Department for advice.

However, Mr Davies opposed the prosecution's application and insisted that his client's plea should be taken on the grounds that the charge of possession of firearms without lawful authority was a misdemeanour.

The trial judge, Mr C. A. Wilson, reminded counsel that the police had the mandate to refer matters to the Attorney-General's Department for advice to which counsel conceded but insisted that such mandate should not be used capriciously.

His insistence resulted in the prosecution presenting the facts of the case, to the effect that on November 17, 2008, the accused person instructed her workers to load some of the fire crackers into a vehicle to be sent to a customer in Kumasi.

According to the prosecution, there was power outage in the area at the time and for that reason the workers decided to use naked lights, which caused the heavy explosion that resulted in the loss of lives and caused injuries to several others.

ACP Allandu told the court that four of the injured were in critical condition at the Korle-Bu Teaching and 37 Military hospitals, adding that investigations were underway to ascertain when and how the explosives were imported into the country.

She said the items had been banned and for that reason the police were investigating how she got the licence to import them.

Replying, Mr Davies said the defence had been handicapped in applying for bail because the prosecution had declined to take his client's plea.

He, nevertheless, sought permission from the court and moved his motion for bail, which stated among other things that his client was a mother of four who had dealt in fire crackers and Christmas toys for the past 10 years.

He said it was unfortunate that lives had been lost as a result of the explosion and expressed his client's condolence to the bereaved families.

According to him, his client had been traumatised by the disaster and had since been suffering from hypertension.

According to him, what happened was not due to negligence on the part of his client and further assured the court that his client would co-operate with the police when granted bail.

Mr Davies further stated that the accused person, who reported to the police voluntarily, had been in custody since Tuesday, November 18, 2008 and for that reason would fully co-operate with the police when granted bail.

Counsel further argued that the charges preferred against his client qualified for bail and stated that in any case, the police were currently guarding the remaining items, including the burnt warehouse of the accused person.

He prayed the court not to allow itself to be put under undue pressure by the media, adding that his client had not committed any heinous crime because she had a lawful permit to build those warehouses among other considerations.

Story by Mabel Aku Baneseh