Cocaine was swapped before tendered in court – Justice Dordzie Committee

The Committee of Inquiry that investigated circumstances under which 1,020 grammes of cocaine turned into sodium bicarbonate on Tuesday said if there were any swapping of the cocaine with any substance it was done before being tendered in court.

“It is our conclusion that if there were any swapping of the cocaine with any other substance it was done before the substance was tendered in court on September 27, 2011.

“It is our finding from the evidence before us that the substance that was tendered in court on September 27, 2011 was not cocaine.

“We became more convinced on our findings as stated above as a result of these and other corroborative evidence that came before us, “the Committee added.

These were contained in the findings of the Three member Committee of Inquiry set up by the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood on December 14, 2011 to investigate circumstances under which the cocaine allegedly received in Circuit Court 1, Accra, presided over by Mr Eric Kyei Baffour as an exhibit in the case of “The Republic Vs. Nana Ama Martins” turned into washing soda.

The Committee was chaired by Ms Justice Agnes Dordzie, an Appeal Court Judge.

Other members were, Mr Justice Abdullah Iddrisu, a High Court Judge, Mr John Bannerman, Chief Registrar General of the Judicial Service and Nii Boye Quartey, Deputy Director of Human Resource of the Judicial Service as Secretary to the Committee.

It recommended the need to provide a strong exhibit room for narcotic drugs and arms.

In addition, Circuit Court ‘1’ Accra being a specialised court should be automated, and the Registry of the Cocoa Affairs Circuit Court should have one Registrar, who should be a Chief Registrar with two deputies with the ranks of Deputy Chief Registrar.

Other recommendations made were that the practice of making an order to destroy narcotic substances immediately on the day that it was tendered should be discouraged and rather, provisions of Act 714 of the Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Act should be complied with.

It recommended that narcotic substances tendered in Court should have field tests in open court on the very day they were tendered, and narcotic cases pending before the courts now should all be field tested before trial.

The Committee’s study of the available records showed that the accused, Nana Ama Martins together with one Andy were arrested on August 22, 2008 by the Police and put before the court for possession of narcotic drug.

The report said the accused was first remanded in Police custody and later in Prison custody by the court, at that time the instruction was to the effect that the docket should be put before the court.

On November 5, 2009 the accused was granted bail by the High Court presided over by Justice Ofosu Quartey. Later the accused jumped bail and was re-arrested and put before the Circuit court where the trial judge vacated the High Court order and remanded the accused person in custody.

The accused applied to the High Court for the order revoking the order made by the High Court to be quashed on the grounds that the Circuit court had no jurisdiction to vacate a High Court’s order.

On September 15, 2011, the High Court presided over by Mr Justice Mustapha Logoh quashed the Circuit Court order for lack of jurisdiction to deal with and vacate a High Court order, and then admitted accused/applicant to bail.

The trial of the accused started on August 24, 2011.

The Committee found that the exhibit which was the subject of the investigation was tendered in court on September 27, 2011 and on the same day it was opened in the presence of the accused person, her counsel Mr Kwabla Senanu, the investigator, Mr Thomas Anyekese, the State Attorney and the court clerk.

Evidence before the Committee established that cocaine has a pungent smell and this evidence was corroborated by the analyst and that when it is opened, the scent will be smelt by everybody in whatever form it is, either powdered or compressed.

The State Attorney and the defence counsel who were present in court on the day that it was opened confirmed that the substance had no such pungent smell.

It must be noted that the opening and the observation by those present was done on September 27, 2011 when the seal was broken in open court for the first time.

This pre-supposes that the substance that was opened on the first day when it was tendered did not have the characteristic smell of cocaine which the analyst confirmed is associated with cocaine.

This substance, which was opened on September 27, 2011, was dented by the scooping of the top to take a sample for re-testing.

The court clerk’s evidence has it that he resealed the top of the exhibit with a white cellotape.

The exhibit that was brought before the Committee had the same white cellotape covering the scooped portion of the substance confirming the clerk’s description of what he did to the substance that was scooped on September 27, 2011.

When the analyst opened the substance in the presence of the Committee the scooping that was done on the top of the substance on September 27, 2011 was on it and it was visible.

The analyst’s confirmed it; that there was a scooping.

It can therefore be reasonably inferred from the forgoing that the substance that had the Police Laboratory seal that was opened in open court on September 27, 2011 was the same substance that was presented to the Committee on December 19, 2011; and the said substance, it has been confirmed, does not have the characteristic smell of cocaine and it is not the cocaine, and it is not the substance that the analyst said he worked on on October 6, 2008.

The Committee set up on December 15th last year was to establish the role played by the trial judge and other court officials including the Registrar and the court clerk and other matters related thereto.

Source: GNA

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