A landmark ruling which gives accused persons in summary trials the right to have access to all documents that will be relied on by the prosecution has been delivered by the Financial Division of the High Court.
Per the ruling, all statements and documents which will be used by the prosecution in summary trials are expected to be handed over to defence teams before the beginning of trials or before accused persons open their defence.
In the past, such documents were usually given out to accused persons who were being tried by indictment and not on summary trial.
Summary trials involve cases which are determined by presiding justices, but first degree felonies, such as treason, murder and hijacking, are usually determined by jurors (lay persons) after evidence has been led.
The landmark ruling was delivered by Mr Justice John Ajet-Nasam, after Nana Asante Bediatuo, counsel for the Scheme Manager of the Adaklu Angyibe Mutual Health Insurance Scheme, had filed an application to that effect.
Pronouncing on the application, the court ordered the prosecution to furnish the defence team with the necessary witness statements and all other documents it intended to rely on during the trial.
The Scheme Manager of the Adaklu Angyibe Mutual Health Insurance Scheme, Raymond Evans Anyadi, was, on January 30, 2014, put before the court for allegedly embezzling GH¢106,706.23 belonging to 15 service providers.
Anyadi raised payment vouchers totalling GH¢134,481.81 for 15 service providers, resulting in the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) settling the amount, but he allegedly paid GH¢27,775.58 and pocketed the rest.
The affected service providers are the St Anthony Herbal Clinic, Deo Valente Chemical Shop, Steven Vuvor Chemical Shop, Hope Health Centre, Avedzi Community First Aid Centre, Menyi Maternity Home, Ryte Aid Pharmacy, Catherine Atta, Miracle Life, the Volta Regional Hospital, the Municipal Hospital, Aggor D.K., the Waya Health Centre, Wudzedeke CHPS Zone and Ahunder Health Centre.
The offence, which was committed between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009, was detected by an auditor of the NHIA.
Anyadi has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of forgery of document and 30 counts of stealing and is currently on a GH¢100,000 bail with two sureties.
The second prosecution witness is currently testifying and hearing has been adjourned to October 10, 2014.
Citing authorities to buttress the court’s decision, Mr Justice Ajet-Nasam said in the interest of justice, fairness and the rights of the accused person, the court would allow Anyadi to have access to the necessary documents.
The court said the accused person’s liberty and fundamental human rights, as enshrined in Article 19 (2) of the 1992, were important.
Describing its decision as novel, the court held that it was imperative for it to allow the accused person to have access to the needed documents to enable him to prepare adequately for his defence.
It said if the accused person was allowed to have access to all documents and lost at the end of the trial, he would not accuse the state of ambush litigation.
Status quo wrong
According to the court, it was wrong for the prosecution to state that it was the status quo for accused persons in summary trials to be denied such vital documents.
That could not be said to be the status quo, it held, and reminded the prosecution that the 1992 Constitution recognised the fundamental human rights of accused persons.
“The Law of Procedure needs to move with the times. The world is now a global village. Every step of the trial should be free from bias and prejudice,” Mr Justice Ajet-Nasam held.
He said the availability of documents to accused persons would cut down unnecessary and unwarranted objections, as well as do away with the element of surprise.
“Non-disclosure is a potent source of injustice to fair trial in criminal jurisprudence,” Mr Justice Ajet-Nasam submitted.