Accused Persons entitled to Documents Prosecution intends to rely on at trials


The Supreme Court has interpreted Article 19 clauses 2 (e) & (g) of the 1992 Constitution.

The clauses state that a person charged with a criminal shall be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of this defence and be afforded facilities to examine, in person or by his lawyer, the witnesses called by the prosecution before the court, and shall obtain the attendance and carry out the examination of witnesses to testify on the same conditions as those applicable to witnesses called by the prosecution.

This interpretation arose from different arguments from the Prosecution and Defence Counsel in the National Communications Authority case involving Eugene Baffour Bonney and four others who have been charged with causing financial loss to the State.

At the High Court, Counsel for the Accused persons argued that the prosecution ought to provide them with all documents the Prosecution intended to rely on at the trial but the Prosecution argued that they ought not provide the Defence counsel all the documents including irrelevant ones.

The Supreme Court presided over by His Lordship, Justice Mr. W. A. Atuguba ruled that with respect to human rights of citizens, and in all forms of criminal trials, in summary trials and in trials on indictment, Accused persons are entitled to full disclosure of witness statements, copies of exhibits evidence and documents whether or not it will be used during the trial.

The Court however explained that the decision on what document is relevant is at the discretion of the Prosecution. Also, if the Accused person is of the view that the non disclosure of a document will impede a fair trial, he or she may make an application to the court for the presiding judge to decide on the application.

The Court added that the right of an Accused to disclosure was limited in cases where the Prosecution ought to protect a witness or for the purposes of safeguarding national security.

According to Her Ladyship, Justice Mrs. Sophia O. Adinyira, a definite time cannot be given with respect to how long it should take for the Prosecution to provide the Accused with the relevant documents but it should be done after the Accused person has been charged and put before court.

Justice Adinyira further read that, considering the 48 hour that an accused is allowed to be detained before taking Accused persons to court, if the prosecution has gathered some partial facts, it may decide to withhold the prosecution materials until investigations are done, if they think that the investigation will be tampered with.

The Supreme Court also ruled that if prosecution documents are not given to the Accused person(s) within a reasonable time before the trial to prepare their defence, the Accused persons may pray for an adjournment to provide ample time to study the document.

It was the ruling of the Court that the non disclosure of a prosecution document does not make it inadmissible in court.

Source: GhanaJustice/F.Kyeremateng