In a democracy, even the most junior judicial officer has more power than the head of state.
For due to a struggle between the people of Britain and their King, a principle evolved, through Magna Carta, that prevents the sovereign from using his or her courts to throw people into jail or seize their property.
That power has been transformed into “The Rule of Law” whereby only judicial officers having gone through “due process”, can deprive citizens of their liberty or their property.
Now, a human being who has been given power by the Constitution of his country to sentence someone “to death” (in some countries) or to “life imprisonment” (in others) is no ordinary person but someone to whom a lot of power has been ENTRUSTED.
And that is why the victims of corrupt judges are greatly perturbed when they learn that instead of administering justice without fear or favour; that is, without taking into account whether an accused person before him is a friend or foe) judges can be surreptitiously influenced – in other words bribed – to tip the scales of justice one way rather than the other.
The rumour mill in Ghana often maligns powerful people without providing any tangible evidence that those so defamed have really done what it is claimed they have done.
This is usually taken with a grain of salt, for no person who has lost a case in court and been obliged to go to jail or to pay enormous costs or a heavy fine, can have a good word to say about the judge who had “done” him.
Even Ghanaians who do not know the law could sense from the evidence against him that a man like Alfred Woyome had duped the nation and pocketed millions of cedis.
Yet the judge who handled his case seemed willing to allow him to keep the money, instead of sending him to jail and retrieving the money for Ghana. Was the judge just being obtuse or had he had a share of Woyome’s money, we wondered.
When our former Attorney-General, Mr Martin Amidu, sought to prove that Woyome was a fraudster who was being propped up by his own former department, he was made to feel as if he was tilting against windmills – like Don Quixote! His efforts on behalf of the state earned him a great deal of abuse and personal pain.
But we still couldn’t find enough evidence that Woyome had benefited from the rulings of a “bent” judge. The only inkling we got about corruption in the case came when a state attorney was shown to be in the pocket of Woyome, through the attorney’s wife. Woyome nevertheless floated around the court system like one clothed in Teflon, daring his accusers to take him “to court”.
Was he daring us because he knew how to put judges in his pocket? Evidently.
Yes: thanks to Anas Aremeyaw Anas, we now know that the judge who handled Woyome’s case, had given Woyome cause to be arrogant.
The evidence Anas had accumulated – 500 hours of video – is before the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council. I hope Anas has been clever enough to annotate it properly, so that the sheer quantity of the material does not overburden those perusing it.
Some people have been wondering whether Anas crossed an ethical line in obtaining his evidence through a series of “sting” operations. They argue that he “entrapped” the judges to commit the crimes of which he is accusing them.
But that is a flawed argument. Some offences can only be detected through subterfuge.
Bribery and terrorism are two of these. In bribery, evidence can only be obtained if the person who pays the bribe can produce a witness who can attest to the crime.
And yet a bribe-taker will almost certainly insist on taking money from someone he trusts. If the money is from a complete stranger, a corrupt judge will ensure that the stranger comes alone, so that should the stranger lay charges against him in future, it would be his word against that of the other.
Thus, in terrorism cases, for instance, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) often leads a person likely to commit terrorist acts (the FBI usually get to such a person through a telephone-tap or a tip from an informer) along by subterfuge.
The FBI puts someone on him to win his confidence and offer him “assistance”.
Then it pounces, when the would-be terrorist is about to take possession of arms or other instruments of terrorism.
The US courts accept the evidence presented by the FBI, on the grounds that if the arrested person did not intend to use the material for terrorist purposes, he wouldn’t have tried to procure it.
So, in the case of Anas and the judges, if judges took money, or were video’d saying they would accept money and throw out cases, they have committed an offence and should be tried and jailed.
Anas is said to have been given immunity by the state, but I doubt whether that was necessary. A person is NOT entitled to privacy to commit a crime against the Republic. Taking a bribe in order to give unfair judgements against the Republic and/ or individuals who go to the courts in search of justice, is not a private act but a punishable crime the punishment for which cannot be vitiated by an alleged invasion of privacy.
Nevertheless, I think Anas should share with the nation, the criteria he used in selecting the judges he targeted.
So congrats, Anas! But do please enlighten us – and very quickly – on how you drew up your target list. I am sure you can do so without compromising your sources, so please do not use that as an excuse.