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AG Godfred Dame Be Strong, Firm, and Fair – Joe Ghartey Writes On Plea Bargaining

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Recent happenings related to the the Attorney-General and the Minister for Justice (A-G) have drawn me to share my humble opinion. People have argued that the A-G’s powers are wide, the truth is that the A-G-s power is not absolute. It is subject to law like all powers exercised in Ghana.

One of the most interesting laws that have been enacted in recent times is the law on plea bargaining which is the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) (Amendment) Act, 2022 (Act 1079), which incidentally was spearheaded by the current Attorney-General, Godfred Yeboah Dame.

Whilst I was A-G from June 2006 to January 2009, there were several situations where the Office was engaged in plea bargaining. We had no law to guide us but we sought at all times to act in the best interest of the State and in good faith.

Today we have a much better situation. Since 2022, issues relating to plea bargaining are governed by law.

In recent times, issues have been raised in relation to plea bargaining and a meeting in Justice Kulendi’s house where the A-G is reported to have said that he ‘accidentally’ met an accused person. Comments abound in the media with regard to a tape recording of a conversation. There is what some have described as the original tape and what others have described as the doctored tape.

All this brings back interesting memories of my time as A-G. In a case which came to be known as the ‘Tagor Case’, we, the prosecution, relied on a recording of a conversation. The Court of Appeal rejected the evidence in the light of the law on privacy. As to whether a lawyer can meet a judge, I think every lawyer or judge will agree that it can happen. The Sallah case which was in the 1960s dealt with this matter to some extent. Whether the A-G should have excused himself in the circumstances is another question.

Be that as it may, most of these matters are before the court and we must hesitate to comment on matters before court, in my humble opinion. At the end of the day after the court arrives at its decision, the floodgates will be open for commentary.

In the meantime A-G, I believe you have been left wiser, but continue to prosecute or otherwise as the need arises. When the circumstances so dictate, enter into plea bargainning negotiations without hesitation, fear or favour. All I can say at this stage is Attorney- General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, be strong, firm and fair. God be your guide.

The author, Hon. Joe Ghartey, is a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Ghana

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