A contempt conviction against the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr David Asante Apeatu, was yesterday set aside by the Commercial Division of the Accra High Court after the court declared it as null and void.
The IGP was on the verge of being punished by another High Court for contempt after the court had held that he disobeyed a court order to assist two individuals to take control of a block of flats at Redco, Madina.
Per the court order, the block of flats, which are currently being occupied by about 20 policemen, was to be sold to offset a debt that Redco Ghana Limited owed one Mrs Isabella Odi Aggrey (deceased), being represented by Mr Samuel Aggrey and Mrs Augustina Gyekye.
The IGP, through the Attorney-General (A-G), however, filed an application to set aside the order for committal for contempt against the IGP, sighting various violations of the rules of court.
In a ruling yesterday, the court, presided over by Mr Justice Koomson, upheld the application by the A-G, and said the order for contempt was a violation of Order 47 rules 5 and 7 of the High Court (Civil Procedure Rules, 2004, C.I 47).
Based on the said violations, Mr Justice Koomson set aside the order for the committal for contempt given by Mr Justice Daniel Mensah of the General Jurisdiction Division of the High Court on September 25, 2018.
“The contempt proceedings were not in compliance with Order 43 rules 5 and 7 of CI 47 and are, therefore, a nullity.
I hereby set aside the contempt proceedings and the subsequent conviction.
The applicant (IGP) is discharged,’’ he ruled.
The September 25, 2018 contempt order by Mr Justice Mensah followed an application for contempt filed against the IGP by Mr Aggrey and Mrs Gyekye.
It was their case that the IGP had disobeyed a court order dated October 23, 2017 that directed him to ensure the peaceful transfer of the flats from the Ghana Police Service to them.
Mr Justice Mensah ruled in their favour and held that the IGP wilfully disobeyed the order of the court and must be “sanctioned appropriately”.
But, explaining the violations of CI 47 that rendered the contempt order null and void, Mr Justice Koomson said before initiating the application for contempt, Mr Aggrey and Mrs Gyekye should have first sought permission from the court to issue a writ of possession of the building.
“I have no doubt in my mind that no writ of possession was issued by the respondents (Mr Aggrey and Mrs Gyekye) with the leave of the court,’’ Mr Justice Koomson held.
Such an omission, he said, was a violation of Order 43 Rule 5 of CI 47.
With regard to the violation of Order 43 Rule 7 of CI 47, Mr Justice Koomson held that the respondents failed to follow the rule in serving the IGP with the October 23, 2017 order that directed him to ensure the peaceful transfer of the flats to them.
The respondents, he held, failed to add an endorsed penal notice to the order that they served on the IGP.
A penal notice is a warning endorsed on a court order that notifies a recipient that he or she would be liable to prison or a fine for breach of the order.
“The failure of the respondents to issue a writ of possession without leave of court and the failure to endorse the order with a penal notice constitute a violation of Order 43 rules 5 and 7 of CI 47,’’ the presiding judge said.
After the court ruling, a Deputy A-G, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, said the IGP would have loved to seek costs due to the negative publicity that he received when the contempt order was given but he had waived costs in the public interest.
In 1988, Mrs Aggrey (deceased) sued Redco Limited for failing to pay an amount owed her.
On February 23, 1993, she won the case at the High Court and the court ordered Redco to pay her the money.
On March 15, 1993, the block of flats was attached, which meant that if Redco failed to pay the money, the court would sell the property to enable Mrs Aggrey to retrieve her money.
Redco filed an application for stay of execution of the High Court’s judgement at the Court of Appeal and subsequently the Supreme Court, but both were dismissed.
It is alleged that Redco, instead of allowing Mrs Aggrey to have access to the flats, sold them to the Ghana Police Service.
The Ghana Police Service has, however, disputed this claim and has filed an action seeking to take possession of the flats.
It is its case that the police lawfully acquired the flats and, therefore, they are the rightful owners.