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NewsGhanaian A-G Austin Amissah who resigned in 1979 amid plea bargaining scandal

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Ghanaian A-G Austin Amissah who resigned in 1979 amid plea bargaining scandal

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Calls for the resignation of Attorney-General Godfred Yeboah Dame are intensifying due to allegations of his involvement in irregular out-of-court negotiations with an accused individual.

Since last week, Dame has remained silent regarding accusations from Richard Jakpa, who claims that the Attorney-General urged him to provide evidence implicating another accused person, Cassiel Ato Forson, in a high-profile financial crime trial. Forson is the Minority Leader in Parliament and a former Deputy Finance Minister.

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One prominent voice calling for Dame’s resignation is Kwaku Ansa-Asare, a former director of the Ghana School of Law. Ansa-Asare argues that Dame has a moral obligation to resign and notes that he would not be the first Attorney-General to step down amid scandal.

Speaking on Joy FM’s Newsnight programme on May 28, Ansa-Asare recalled an incident from the 1970s when Austin Ammissah, Ghana’s ninth Attorney-General, resigned after misconducting himself in a plea bargain negotiation involving a murder case.

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Ansa-Asare narrated: “Dr. Ohene Gyan had been accused of participating in the murder of one of his security officials, in the course of the trial, when the issue of plea bargain came up.”

Plea bargaining, he explained, “is simply an informal procedure usually conducted in the chambers of the Attorney-General or the chambers of the trial judge whereby the accused person could agree to plead guilty as an exchange for the prosecution to drop the case against him.”

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He stated that in the Ohene Gyan case, it was claimed that during the course of the case, Ohene Gyan communicated with the judge, the senior prosecutor, and Gyeke Darko, indicating his preference for a guilty plea in exchange for the prosecution withdrawing its charges against him rather than going through with a full trial.

“Austin Amissah, who was not only the A-G but Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana misconducted himself and was made to resign,” he stressed without going into the details.

“This was during the era of the National Redemption Council under General Kutu Acheampong,” he added.

“History has repeated itself, Dame is an A-G, he knows what the process of plea bargaining involves,” he submitted stressing that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo will likely refer the matter to the Special Prosecutor, who is likely to clear Dame of any wrongdoing.

Amissah, Ghana’s ninth Attorney-General, was born in Accra on October 3, 1930. He studied at Jesus College, Oxford, and was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1955.

From 1962 to 1966, he served as Ghana’s Director of Public Prosecutions. Following this, he became a judge on the Court of Appeal, serving from 1966 to 1976. During this period, he was seconded to the University of Ghana, where he was a professor and Dean of the Law Faculty from 1969 to 1974. Additionally, he chaired the Ghana Law Reform Commission from 1969 to 1975.

In 1979, Amissah was appointed Attorney General and Minister of Justice. Later, he served as a judge of the Court of Appeal in Botswana from 1981 to 2001, including a term as President of the Court of Appeal.

Amissah was also a prolific writer, with notable works including “Criminal Procedure in Ghana” (1982, winner of the Noma Award), “The Contribution of Courts to Government: A West African View” (1981), and “Arbitration in Africa” (1996). He passed away in London on January 20, 2001, where he had resided since 1982.

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