It's often said that the mirror of a society is the reflection of its people. This means that the society we have is a representation of the people living in it. This statement holds a strong connotation in the context of the Ghanaian society. We are a people who seem by words in love with justice but we are the very people that dislike and crucify the disciples of justices when they hit their gavel to sound justice to its letter and its true meaning.
The recent social media uproar on the 90 days sentence of Rosemond Brown, a social media superstar leaves one with nothing but to question the bimetallic standards that permeate the Ghanaian society. Rosemond Brown aka Akuapem Poloo was arrested and convicted on posting nude pictures of herself with the son on social media. She pleaded guilty on all the three charges leveled against her– publication of obscene materials, engaging in domestic violence, a conduct that undermines another person's privacy or integrity and engaging in domestic violence that in any way detracts or is likely to detract from another person's dignity and worth as a human being. Her guilty pleas set the stage for her crucifixion by the law( Criminal Offences Act 1960 Act 29 and Children's Act 1998, Act 560).
Subsequent to that, the judge is been pilloried for no reason other than her firm application of the laws. But ain't ironical for a society that sings for justice everyday but when justice is dispensed they turned their cheeks in disdain to the arbiter whom in the discharge of her duties, she acted fairly within the borders of the law. Is our call for justice really a genuine one or it is an emorational (emotional and moral) talkshop? Notable among this wave of criticisms on Christian Cann, the Presiding judge is Prof. Kweku Asare's condemnation of the wrong application of section 280 of Act 29. He averred that there is nothing obscenity in the “half nude” picture posted by Madam Rosemond. He advanced his argument trying to justify a point that the publication of nude or semi-nude picture per se does not constitute obscene. However, he defined obscenity as a term not fixed but varies from generation to generation.
But isn't that contradictory of his own proposition? Because his definition of obscenity suggests that the term is a creation of society and therefore people living at a particular time can determine what constitutes obscene or what defies their values and morals. If his definition is true of a definition, let's transpose our minds back to June last year, the month Akuapem Poloo posted the picture on social media and reevaluate the reaction of the Ghanaian and compare it with Prof. Kweku Asare's proposition.
On that very day Poloo committed the crime against her innocent child, I was sitting in a barbering shop waiting for my turn to have a shave whiles listening to an entertainment program on radio. The presenter mooted the issue and later on opened the phone lines for the public to express their views on the publication of the picture. Which, without doubt, was received with a barrage of insults which by themselves are obscene to be written in any good write-up. The public outcry was grave enough to call for a chief from the Akuapem area to come out and disowned Rosemond Brown as a native of Akuapem so as to save the dignity of their ethnicity. That time I didn't hear Prof Kweku Asare or anyone that said it's a semi-nude picture preach that the Akuapem Poloo should be treated softly or people should be lenient in their condemnation. Neither do I see or hear anything like #StopCondenming Akuapem Poloo.
Who knows, if they had started their preaching that time, probably, they could have watered down the public clamor and we won't have gotten here. But they deserted her for public lamentation to flourish which led to her being handed over to the law to unleash its forces on. Slowly but sure, the mills of justice caught hold of Poloo and the society turned to abuse the very justice they called for! The lamentations suddenly became sympathies. Isn't that hypocrisy ? You gave up Akuapem Poloo to the court but turned round to scoff the very laws and its Judge for what you asked of them. Isn't that a people that speak of justice but afraid of its application? The countries we admire as fountains of true justice and strong institutions, they are not built on sympathies and double standards!
Again, I hear a section of the same society claiming that the judgement entered by Christian Cann is too harsh. But none of them claim that she acted ultra vires. They said she acted within the confines of the law but she should have considered the circumstance of the child. But they have soon forgotten the circumstance her post has or will put the child into. They are yet to remember how her post derailed the dignity of the Akuapem people or society in general that precipitated their yesterday's calling. Unfortunately, their today's calling is of a moral and emotional type which the law doesn't operate in that millieu. Just like Hillary Egheose Okoeguale puts it ” The law is not emotional, the goddess of justice is blind to extraneous facts. Once the element of an offense is proved, justice must be served”. And it is simple as the duty of Christian Cann.
These same apostates of Akuapem Poloo called for leniency of the judge because the act is considered a first offense. Isn't 3months out of 3years sufficient to serve as a lenient sentence? Or their expectations of leniency is to allow Madam Rosmond go unpunished. If that was done, what will have been the purpose of the laws created. I only see their call as a confirmation of the general held perception that in this country “bigmen” always interfere with the law to prevent it from working. Now, if “small men” are interfering with the law from being enforced, won't that spur the bigmen to continue interfering with the law? Which voice will they use to call for justice again, when you had already called for injustice! Society becomes anomic when its laws are murdered this way!
Sentences are not only meant to be punitive but deterrent or exemplary to mark as disapproval of society of such a conduct. Taylor J., posits that, imprisonment should be harsh enough to be a deterrent and short enough to satisfy the reformative element in criminal justice. This in my view satisfies every aspect of the Poloo case. Perhaps, we wanted the judge to play to our perceptions on how we view the judiary and we will once again rebuke that this country is a “banana republic”. This country, nothing works! It should rather be a point for us to note that there are still few people that don't trade their conscience and integrity for anything, and we can leverage on that as a font of hope for a perceived failing system.
More interesting is the claim that the laws of Ghana are selective in their application because the laws do not bite so-called “big fish or Politicians”. However, I'm not in a position to deny or accept this claim. Because I believe in the possibility of everything under the sun. But what I found problematic in the argument advanced is the conception of “big fish” merely as a model politician. I think the term big fish should go beyond a politician to include all people that have position, power and influence in society. With that stretch of definition, one would see that Akuapem Poloo is not a small fish but a very big fish. If she is not having position but she has influence. It's out of her influence that we're seeing the many hash tags free Akuapem Poloo. For a small fish like Amadious, I didn't see hash tag free Amadious when he was sentenced for 3years by the Wa High Court for stealing even though the circumstance that might have led to the theft was hunger.
What I only see in the many criticisms is a subtle way of reintroducing the same big fish theory of law evasion on us. Would we have had hash tags flowing on social media like this if the act was committed by Hawa Koomson, a politician? Maybe no or maybe yes. If the later by principle was to go by, isn't the society a reflection of our deeds? It would be erroneous if our definition of big fish is limited to only the politician. It would be tantamount to a suggestion that laws must by hook or crook sentence only politicians to rot in jail without recourse to due process. This kind of limping principles can't build a nation of law and morals. Our condemnation must be consistent and not based on wish.
In conclusion, judges like Christiana Cann should rather be hailed for their show of valor which is the greatest part of discretion. In a society where trust and hope in the judicial is declining, condemnation of the incendiaries of justice would end up destroying our system further. And the end will be total darkness!
Senator Suleman Pelpuo Ikyei