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COCOBOD trial: Supreme Court rules on Opuni “submission of no case” 28 July

Alhassan

Supreme Court of Ghana

A five-member Supreme Court panel presided over by Justice Jones Dotse, has fixed 28 July 2021 to rule on Stephen Opuni’s “submission of no case” in the COCOBOD trial.

The first accused in the case of the “Republic versus Stephen Opuni and two others” is challenging a ruling of the high court that rejected a “submission of no case” made by him (the accused person) and his claim that there is a real likelihood of bias against him by the trial judge if he continues to adjudicate the matter.

Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Supreme Court judge sitting with additional responsibility as a high court judge, on 7 May 2021 dismissed Opuni’s “submission of no case” on the grounds that the state has established a prima facie case against him and the two others, for which they must open their defence and respond to charges.

Contention of defence team

Samuel Cudjoe, the lawyer for the accused person (Stephen Opuni, a former chief executive of COCOBOD), moved his motion on Tuesday (13 July 2021), invoking the supervisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for an order of certiorari to quash the high court decision which dismissed the “submission of no case” application by his client, and also calling for an order of prohibition to restrain the trial judge from continuing with the case on the grounds of real likelihood of bias.

Lawyer Cudjoe argued that the trial judge acted contrary to Section 8 of the Evidence Act and that he did not give his client a fair opportunity to be heard before his ruling, which amounts to a breach of his constitutional rights.

The defence team contended that during the high court hearing, the trial judge, Justice Honyenuga, made comments which show that he has made up his mind about the accused persons in relation to this case.

They argue that, to this end, it will be in the best interests of justice for the judge to recuse himself from the case.

State’s argument

Deputy Attorney General Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, opposing the application, noted that the applicant has failed to meet the required threshold when it comes to invocation of the Supreme Court’s supervisory jurisdiction.

He argued that the trial judge was only invited to determine whether or not a prima facie case had been made against the accused persons and that is exactly what he did in his “submission of no case ruling”.

The judge, according to the deputy attorney general, was right to hold that the state had made a case against the accused persons.

He further contended that the accused person (Opuni) was seeking to create the impression that he was not being given a fair hearing before the judge called on him to open his defence after dismissing his “submission of no case” application, and that could not be right.

By court

After hearing the oral arguments of lawyers for the parties, including counsel for the former COCOBOD chief executive, the Supreme Court adjourned sitting to Wednesday 28 July 2021 for its ruling on the application.

The five-member Supreme Court panel consists of Justice Jones Dotse (the presiding judge), together with Justices Gabriel Pwamang, Agnes Dordzi, Lovelace Johnson and Amadu Tanko.

Wilberforce Asare

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