The police authorities in Ghana are presently at loggerheads with an Accra Court after a seemingly magical drama played itself out on Tuesday at the Accra Circuit Court. A substance weighing 1.02 kg alleged to be cocaine which was seized from an accused person, confirmed by the police to be cocaine after testing later turned out to be sodium carbonate (caustic soda). The revelation was made after the court had ordered another test to be conducted by the Ghana Standards Board (GSB).
The court therefore called on the Inspector-General of Police to find out who might have tampered or changed the drug alleged to have been found on the accused person. Incidentally, the substance had been thought to be in the custody of the police all through the duration of the case. The court subsequently discharged and acquitted the accused person, Nana Ama Martin of the drug possession charge after his counsel made a no case submission.
Street Journal found out that the case had started about three years ago when Nana Ama Martin was arrested with a ladies’ bag containing one slab of a whitish substance suspected to be cocaine on August 22, 2008. When the exhibit was examined by the Police Forensic Laboratory it tested positive for cocaine and weighed 1.018 kg.
The suspect was thereafter arraigned before the Circuit Court on September 4, 2008 on the charge of possessing a narcotic drug without lawful authority. The court ordered her to be remanded in custody. After a number of adjournments, the accused person was surprisingly granted bail by the High Court on November 11, 2009. She jumped bail soon after and travelled to the United States of America. The person that stood as surety for her was thereafter apprehended and dragged before the court. The guarantor tried all he could to convince the suspect to return to Ghana. When she eventually did, she was arrested and handed her over to the police on July 21, 2011.
By July 25, 2011, she was re-arraigned before the Circuit Court and charged with the offence of possessing a narcotic drug without lawful authority on a fresh charge sheet. She was again remanded in custody after pleading not guilty.
The accused person’s counsel filed a motion for bail at the High Court on September 16, 2011 and the application was granted in the sum of GH¢60,000, with two sureties in like sum. Street Journal also gathered that the sureties produced an indenture which was sent to the Lands Commission for authentication.
While the execution of the bail was still being awaited, the case was again called on September 27, 2011. At that hearing, the police investigator gave evidence and tendered the exhibit, which was sealed as at then in court. It was noted that the defence counsel did not raise any objection when the exhibit was tendered.
The Police Forensic Laboratory seals on the exhibit were broken open on the orders of the court and the exhibit was subsequently handed over to the court for safekeeping while the case was adjourned to September 28, 2011 for cross-examination of the investigator.
When the trial resumed the following day, the defence counsel stunned the court when he raised an objection that the exhibit which had been admitted in evidence was not cocaine.
The unsealed exhibit was then brought from the custody of the court and the judge ordered for a sample to be taken and sent to the GSB for re-examination. The sample was taken by the court clerk who handed it over to the court registrar to keep and on September 29, 2011, on the orders of the court, the registrar, accompanied by the investigator, sent the sample to the GSB for re-examination.
At the resumed hearing on November 22, 2011, analysts from the Police Forensic Science Laboratory and the GSB appeared before the court to give evidence. The police analyst told the court that the test which he carried out on August 29, 2008, tested positive for cocaine. The GSB analyst on the other hand disclosed that the test which he carried out on 29, September 2011, proved that the substance was not cocaine as it tested negative for the narcotic. .
The drama continued on Wednesday as police authorities accused fingers the court where the exhibit tested and certified to be cocaine suddenly became sodium carbonate. The police authorities therefore petitioned the Chief Justice to order an investigation into the matter.
Not only is the Ghanaian Police accusing the court of complicity, it stated that the court should take full responsibility for all that happened because the police followed due process while tendering the exhibit in the court.
The Director-General of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Prosper Agblor, on Wednesday disclosed that the police has started its investigation on the matter. He also pointed out that the seal on the exhibit was broken in open court and the exhibit was kept overnight at the court before samples of it were taken to the Ghana Standards Board (GSB) for testing.
Agblor said as at the time the court took custody of the exhibit, the seals had been broken and no attempt was made to re-seal it before being kept by the court, an action which he said made the exhibit both vulnerable and unprotected.
The police Chief said the involvement of the police in the handling of the exhibit terminated at the point of tendering it before the court. He also stated that no objection was raised by all the parties concerned in the matter when the exhibit was first tendered before the court.
Agblor also indicted the court when he disclosed that in spite of the awareness that the charge against the suspect, Nana Ama Martin was not bailable, she was admitted to bail on two occasions by the court.