Court convicts McDan for contempt
Judge wanted to disabuse notion that the powerful could disobey court orders.
An Accra High Court has convicted Daniel McKorley, the Chief Executive Officer of McDan Group of Companies for contempt.
The businessman was found guilty after the Court held that he had deliberately disobeyed orders of the High Court over disputed parcels of land at East Legon in Accra.
The Court presided over Justice Kweku Tawiah Ackaah-Boafo, a Justice of the Court of Appeal sitting as an additional High Court Judge, imposing the sentence, said he wished to disabuse the popular imaginary of the notion that the rich and influential people in society together with public officials could disregard the rule of law and then when the wheels of justice catch up with them, proffer an apology.
He said for that matter, in this case, his initial inclination was that a fine would amount to a mere slap on the wrist of the respondent and that incarceration was appropriate.
However, having heard from both Counsel and considered the passionate plea for leniency by Counsel for the Respondent and taken into consideration the fact that this is the Respondent’s first brush with the law, “I am of the opinion that the imposition of a fine is appropriate.”
Consequently, the Court imposes a fine of GH¢40, 000.00 on the respondent; in default he shall serve 21 days in jail.
The fine when paid, GH¢15,000 out of the total of GH¢40,000 shall be paid out to the Applicant to help him offset part of his legal costs.
The Judge reiterated to the Respondent that the Contempt of Court charge transcended the dispute between him and the Applicant because the finding had nothing to do with the ownership of the land in dispute.
This finding is one that strikes at the very heart of the administration of justice because as was held many years ago “Contempt of Court” is well known in the vocabulary of the law.
He said it was also well known that it was not a phrase to be taken literally in any sense of being concerned with protection of the personal dignity of the Judge.
“It is rather a sanction to serve the administration of justice in the public interest that the law is no respecter of persons and their status in the society,” he said.
He said in the context of the circumstances of this case, “I can only end my analysis by quoting Lord Byron, a flamboyant British Aristocrat (1788-1824), who is credited with the statement that, “He who holds no Laws in awe, He must perish by the Law”.”
The Judge said based on all the above, he held the view that a case of contempt has been properly made against Dr McKorley herein both under common law and statute; that was Section 13(1) of NRCD 323.
Undoubtedly, the Applicant has met his onus of proving the Respondents’ guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
“Consequently, I hold the Respondent in contempt of court and convict him accordingly,” he added.
On May 20, 2022, the Applicant, Al-Hassan Iddisah filed a contempt application to vindicate the law and its sanctions after the respondent forcibly took over the land in dispute.
He accused the Respondent, Dr McKorley, of breaking the law by willfully disrespecting an order of the High Court and thereby bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.
According to the Applicant, his late wife and mother owned two contiguous plots of land at East Legon, Accra and have been in possession of the land since 2002 until the Respondent forcibly took over from them.
According to the Applicant, even though the Respondent knows the interest of his family, contrary to the Rules of Court, he invoked the jurisdiction of the District Court, Madina by an ex-parte motion to have possession of the lands.
The application, the applicant said, was granted and with the assistance of the Police, he (Respondent) took possession of the land.
The Applicant said he filed an application for certiorari to quash the order of the Madina District Court on grounds of “want of jurisdiction, and/or excess of jurisdiction, violation of the rules of natural justice and nullity” and same was granted by the High Court on June 9, 2020.
The Applicant deposed that “the record of proceedings Exhibit “A” showed that the Respondent was represented by his lawyer who was in Court on June 9, 2020.
The Applicant further deposed that, notwithstanding the ruling of the Court, the Respondent remained in possession of the land and “is contumaciously developing the land.”
The Applicant further argued that “a penal notice and a copy of the ruling was filed for service on the Respondent but all attempts at personal service having failed, an order was obtained to serve him by substituted service with a copy of the ruling/order of 9th June 2020 and the penal notice as well as the day’s courts notes in the following manner:
“By posting copies on the Notice Board of the Honourable Court, …. on the wall on the land, the subject matter of the suit and resultant application for certiorari and by posting a copy at the offices of McDan Group, Okponglo-East Legon, Off the Madina, Accra Highway and one-time publication in a National Daily” and “a copy of the Order has been attached as Exhibit “B,” he said.
The further deposition of the Applicant was that he complied with the order made by the Court and posted copies at all the places ordered to be posted and published a copy in the Ghanaian Times Newspaper of Thursday, March 24, 2022. A copy of the publication was attached as Exhibit “C’.
The Applicant contended that despite the service of the order and the penal notice, the Respondent continued to build on the land in flagrant disregard of the order of the Court.
He tendered in photographs embossed with dates showing workers alleged to be on the land after the service of the order of the Court, contending that Respondent’s continuation of the construction “is a contumacious disrespect of the orders of the Court and constitute contempt of Court which must be punished.”
He, therefore, prayed the Court to convict him and punish him since the Respondent had no excuse to say he was not aware of the order because his lawyer was in Court when the order was made.
In a 16-paragraph affidavit in opposition to the application, the Respondent argued that he had not done anything wrong that required him to be punished.
He argued that “I acquired a parcel of land situated at Mpehuasem from one Yaw Adomako Koduah sometime in the year 2016 and had (sic) since been issued with a Land Certificate numbered GA53817. See Exhibit “A.”
He said upon the said acquisition he obtained an order from the Madina Magistrate Court to take possession of the land.
He argued that he then started developing the land into apartments to be sold to prospective purchasers and subsequently the order obtained from the Madina Magistrate Court was quashed by this Court on June 9, 2020.
He contended that the decision of the Court was not brought to “my attention in goodtime” and that sometime in March 2022, “it’s almost two years after the said ruling that my attention was drawn to the decision by my workers who saw copies posted on the walls of McDan Group of Companies building at East Legon.”
According to him, at the time the decision was brought to his attention, he had already “finished construction of the apartments and even sold them.”
He also deposed that the Applicant has issued a fresh writ of summons against him and his grantor at the Land Division of the High Court for declaration of title to the land and served him by substituted service.
According to him, “by the time both the Writ of Summons and the application for committal for contempt were served on me I had already finished with the construction of the apartments.”
He said “it is not true that I have disobeyed the Court’s Order. The fact is that the said Order was not served on me or brought to my attention in good time.” He, therefore, prayed the Court to dismiss the application.