Politics

Where’s the ‘plea bargaining law’ Ato Essien used? – Ghanaians ask as phone snatcher is jailed 15 years

Where’s the ‘plea bargaining law’ Ato Essien used? – Ghanaians ask as phone snatcher is jailed 15 years

Pulse.com.gh

Jan 6, 2023 11:16 AM

Ghanaians have been reacting to the jailing of a 21-year-old Okada rider to 15 years imprisonment for snatching a mobile phone, saying the punishment meted out to him is harsh, and that the “plea bargaining law” that was used in the case of the defunct Capital Bank founder Ato Essien should have been applied.

Ato Essien

Emmanuel Waki, who is said to have committed the offence in the presence of the Inspector-General of Police, Dr George Akuffo Dampare will spend the next 15 years of his life in prison following his guilty plea and sentencing.

He reportedly robbed a bystander of his mobile phone on December 19 in front of the Police CID Headquarters.

It is reported that the IGP and his bodyguards who were then returning from routine observational duties coincidentally witnessed the incident.

The team gave Waki, who is affectionately called Pocket a hot chase which led to the arrest of Salifu Alhaji, also an Okada rider, who then led the police to arrest Waki at Old Fadama.

“Waki pleaded guilty simpliciter (without any explanation) on December 23 before the Circuit Court and was convicted on his own plea while his sentence was deferred to today, Wednesday, December 04, 2023.

“In court on Wednesday, January 4, the court presided over by His Honour Mr Samuel Bright Acquah said per Section 296 the punishment for robbery is up to life in prison.

“The convict who had pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and robbery was sentenced to 10 years for conspiracy and 15 years for robbery. The sentence the court said should run concurrently, meaning he would serve the highest of 15 years,” starrfm.com.gh reports.

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Waki’s sentencing has angered many Ghanaians on social media, most of whom say the country’s justice system favours the rich while punishing the poor harshly.

Ato Essien and two others were on trial for three years for their involvement in the collapse of Capital Bank. The prosecution had also accused Essien of misappropriating GH¢620 million in liquidity support extended by the Bank of Ghana to help keep the bank afloat.

At the end of the prosecution, he reached an agreement with the state to pay GH¢90 million in restitution to avoid going to hail after pleading guilty to the charges proffered against him. He and his legal team relied on section 35 of the Courts Act, 1993, Act 459 (as amended).

While the Courts Act, 1993, Act 459 might not be appropriate in Waki’s case, on July 22, 2022, the president assented to a bill to formally introduce plea bargaining to the administration of criminal justice in the country in respect of all offences. It bears the title: The Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) (Amendment) Act, 2022 (Act 1079).

Plea bargaining is a process in criminal justice whereby an accused person relinquishes his right to go to full trial in exchange for some other benefits. Another name for plea bargaining is ‘negotiated plea’ – whereby in consideration of a guilty plea, the accused person will face lesser charges, will answer to a reduced number of offences, or receive a lesser sentence.

Those against Waki’s jail term say this law should have applied in his case. But the question is whether the convict’s lawyer relied on it.

Meanwhile, it is instructive to note that the presiding judge, His Honour Samuel Bright Acquah while pronouncing the sentence said per Section 296 the punishment for robbery is up to life in prison, which implies that the punishment could have been harsher.

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