By Diana M. Kodie
The Supreme Court yesterday granted reliefs sought by William Tevie, former Director General of the National Communications Authority (NCA), and four others for the Attorney General to make available to them documents it would rely upon to prosecute them. The court, which was presided over by Justice William Atuguba, was unanimous that the accused persons were entitled to all prosecution witnesses’ statements, even if the AG would not tender them.
“Non-disclosure by the prosecution is a potent source of injustice. A trial cannot be fair if the prosecution is allowed to keep materials to its chest,” the court contended.
Other members of the panel were Justice Sophia Adinyira, Justice Julius Ansah, Justice Jones Gabriel Dotse, Justice Annin Yeboah, Justice Sule Gbadegbe and Justice Yaw Appau.
Tevie, Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie and others, who are standing trial at the High Court for various offences, proceeded to the apex court because the AG was unwilling to hand over the documents to them.
During the trial at the High Court, the defense team had argued that Article 19 (e and g) of the 1992 Constitution allowed accused persons to be afforded adequate facilities to enable them put up their defense during trial.
This adequate facility includes lists of witnesses to be called by prosecution, all relevant documents to be used, as well as those they do not intend to rely on.
The Defense Counsel argued that constitutionally, the AG was required to furnish all the documents to them, whether they intended to use them or not.
The A-G, Gloria Akuffo, on her part, argued that there was no law binding them to furnish the defense team with all documents, but was ready to hand over only documents they intend to rely on.
In both cases, the defense lawyers were unhappy with the decision of the AG not to furnish them with all documents, and, therefore, proceeded to the Supreme Court for a constitutional interpretation, which subsequently led to indefinite adjournments.
Delivering the ruling on Thursday morning, Justice Sophia Adinyira indicated that once an accused person is formally charged with an offense, the person is entitled to disclosure of documents, adding that, the prosecution should voluntarily disclose materials to accused persons to avoid delays of the trial.
She, however, stated that matters concerning disclosure of documents are a continuing one, hence, in some cases, absolute withholding of information is relevant, and it is at the discretion of the prosecution to disclose them, as and when it deems fit.
Although an accused person is entitled to full disclosure, it is also subject to relevance, national interest, safety and others.
The court, therefore, ordered that all documents should be handed over to the accused and their lawyers except where there is a justification not to do so.
Speaking to the media after proceedings, the Deputy A-G, Godfred Yeboah Dame, said he was satisfied with the decision, as it complements their initial position.
This landmark decision has now paved way for the lower court (High Court) to resume hearing of the substantive case.