Earlier in the year, it was reported that two Canadian girls had been kidnapped in the Ashanti Region where the kidnappers demanded a ransom of 800,000 USD. Eight persons were subsequently arrested in line with the kidnap, the victims were freed and the suspects arraigned before the courts. Four of the kidnappers were granted bail to the tune of GHC 200,000.
The latest report has been that four of the suspects alleged to have participated in the kidnapping have been discharged by the court. The four discharged are Seidu Abubakari aka Nba who was suspected as the ring leader of the gang, Abdul Nasir, Safianu Abubakar, Abdul Rahman Suleimana aka Wofa. They had pleaded not guilty when charges of conspiring to kidnap the Canadian girls were preferred against them.
The exact reason for the office of the Attorney General dropping the charges is not known.
The issue of people being kidnapped has been on the rise in Ghana this year. Particular mention is made of a kidnapping incident which ensued in the Eastern Region in June this year where some men broke into the home of a fetish priest and made away with some items. They also made away with the son of the fetish priest aged 34 and a taxi driver of 26 demanding a ransom of 40,000GHC where they negotiated it to GHC 37,000. Another case is noted where the accused was sentenced to 36 years of imprisonment after being found guilty to counts of robbery and kidnapping. The accused who is a 24-year-old Nigerian attacked a 46-year-old Ghanaian businesswoman at Mile 7 robbing her of some valuable items and tying her in a bush only to call her husband later and demand a ransom.
The occurrences and incidents in the western region concerning kidnapping are trite. In the wake of the discharge of the 4 accused persons, the main question it raises is the law on kidnapping and whether there is any justification for their discharge?
THE LAW ON KIDNAPPING
Under the Ghanaian law, the offence of kidnapping is a second-degree felony.A person convicted thereof shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
A person will be guilty of the offence of kidnapping when the person unlawfully imprisons another person and takes the person out of the jurisdiction of the court without the consent of the victim or imprisons the person within the jurisdiction of the court in such ways to prevent the person from applying to a Court for his release or from discovering to any other person the place where he is imprisoned, or in such a manner as to prevent any person entitled to have access to him from discovering the place where he is imprisoned.
In effect, a person is guilty of the offence of kidnapping another person where the person prevents the freedom of movement of the victim without the consent of the victim. It is immaterial whether the perpetrator confined the victim to a place in the country or took the victim out of the country. By way of illustration, if a person confines another person to a place, prevents the free movement of the person, and prevents any other person who has custody over the victim (eg. A parent or a guardian) from seeing the victim and such act of the perpetrator isn’t backed by law, such a person may be liable for the offence of kidnapping. The element of the restriction of the movement of the victim not being backed by law is very vital since, without it, persons in jail or even in some secondary schools may become victims under the offence of kidnap.
The age of the victim is also immaterial. Anybody of any age may be kidnapped under the law. A 90-year- old person may be a victim of kidnapping, so may be a 19-year-old. Also, it doesn’t matter if the perpetrators demanded a ransom from the victim or not. Kidnapping may still lie where the perpetrators did not demand anything. The mere fact of unlawfully preventing the freedom of movement of the victim whereby the victim did not consent to it can amount to a case of kidnap. Thus in an instance where the court had granted the sole custody of a child to the mother without access by the father and the father intercepts the child and prevents the child from going back to the mother, the father may be liable for a case of kidnapping the child.
A corollary to the offence of kidnapping is the abduction of a child under 18 years. This offence is age specific thus ruling out all persons above the age of 18 years. In effect, where the victim is above the age of 18, this offense won’t lie. The offense is committed when the perpetrator takes the victim unlawfully from the lawful possession of the person in charge of the victim or detains the victim from lawfully returning to the those in charge of him or her and where the perpetrator does so with the intention of preventing the person who has possession of the child from having possession of the child or with the intention of someone having sexual intercourse of any form with the victim or of getting married to the victim (where the victim in this instance is a girl child).
In simple terms, the offense will ensue when the perpetrator detains the child (who is under 18 years) with an intention of not allowing the parents or guardians to have access to the child or detains the child to have or allow another person to have sexual intercourse of any form with the victim or detains unlawfully a girl child with the intent of the child getting married to another person. With this offence also, the prosecution must further prove that the accused person knew that the child was in the lawful care of another person. Therefore, if a person takes a child who is under 18 years unlawfully from the parent or guardian to have sexual intercourse with the child, such a person may be liable for the offence of abduction of a child under 18 years. Also, if such a person merely detains the child unlawfully, preventing the parents of the child from having access to the child, such a person may be liable for the offence in the circumstance. It will also be same when such a person unlawfully detains a girl child under 18 years with the intention of getting married to the girl child or allowing another to get married to the girl child.
As indicated earlier, the suspects in the kidnapping of the Canadian girls’ case were charged with counts of kidnapping. Perhaps, the office of the attorney general after reviewing the docket realised they lack the evidence to establish some of the elements of the offence concerning the persons discharged. The law in such an instance allows the suspects to be discharged. The discharge doesn’t mean they are acquitted. Anytime fresh evidence is found, they may be arrested and arraigned before court for the prosecution to commence.
The author is Kweku Attakora Dwomoh. He is an Associate at Law Plus (Attorneys-at-Law).
Source: Kweku Attakora Dwomoh