Curbing vigilantism: Court halts sentencing of accused over plea
An Accra Circuit Court was compelled to halt sentencing one of the persons convicted of engaging in violent activities at the National Democratic Congress (NDC) National Youth and Women’s Organisers elections held in Cape Coast on December 10, last year.
That was after lawyers for the accused fiercely contested his plea of being guilty of engaging in vigilante activities.
Dauda Mohammed Nazir had pleaded guilty to the count when he first appeared in court on January 10, this year.
Lawyer for the accused, Beatrice Annangfio argued that her client did not fully understand what it meant to plead guilty to the offence adding that the court clerk, who is not a certified interpretor, did not communicate to the understanding of the accused whose native language is Hausa.
All three accused persons have however been granted bail by the court presided over by Samuel Bright Acquah to the sum of GH¢50,000 with two sureties each.
The three, Dauda Mohammed Nazir, Abdul Halid Shaibu, aka Olu, and Razak Ibrahim, aka Oga are three out of 16 persons who are suspected to have caused disturbances at the NDC’s elections.
The other 14 persons are currently on the run.
They are to reappear on February 15, this year.
Not guilty, sin
Lawyer for the accused, Ms Annangfio further stated that her client was not given the right to be represented by a counsel when the case was first called.
She added that in a conference with the accused, the accused said when he was asked if he was guilty or not, he assumed he was being asked if he was present at the conference and that was why he replied yes.
“From our conference with our client, his understanding was that, he was at the conference and he said yes and not he being guilty to the offence. He was also not given right to counsel by the prosecution and before the court, he was not represented. We should be given the rights to fair hearing. The duty of the prosecution is to administer justice and not to secure convictions. I wish to say that you exercise magnanimity and retake his plea,” Ms Annangfio said.
In response, the state prosecutor, Superintendent of Police (SP) Sylvester Asare, who vehemently opposed the prayer, said the business of the court was to sentence the accused person by his own plea adding that the prayer of the accused person’s lawyer was alien and a sin.
The Presiding Judge in his response to the prayer said it was clear on records that the court did not do enough to let the accused know his right, adding that the court should have found out if he wanted to go without counsel.
“The court erred and if the court erred, does it have the right to correct that? Yes. Trial ends at sentencing not conviction. Prosecution does not lose anything. In this case, I will allow the plea of the convict to be retaken,” Mr Acquah said.