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Ambulance case: Court of Appeal throws out Ato Forson

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The Court of Appeal has in a unanimous judgment, thrown out an appeal filed by the first accused in the Fake ambulance Trial, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson in which he alleged that the charges brought by the Republic against him were defective.

Dr. Ato Forson had contended before the Court of Appeal that the charges of wilfully causing financial loss to the State and intentionally misapplying public property preferred against him by the State were defective for failing to disclose sufficient particulars.

However, in a ruling delivered on 8th June, 2024, the Court constituted by Bright Mensah JA (Presiding), Bartels-Kodwo J.A. and Amaleboba J.A., dismissed the appeal as “without merit”.

The appellant, Cassiel Ato Forson had initially filed an application at the High Court seeking to strike out the charges as failing to disclose sufficient particulars to warrant the trial proceeding.

The High Court dismissed same. Following the dismissal, lawyers for Ato Forson filed an appeal alleging among others, that “the High Court judge erred in holding that the particulars of offences of Counts 1 and 5 contain sufficient information on the specific acts engaged in by the 1st Accused/Appellant that manifest “without due cause and authorisation” as contained in Counts 1 and 5 of the charge sheet”.

The appeal came on for hearing and was vigorously contested by the Attorney-General represented by a Principal State Attorney, Richard Gyambiby, who argued that the Republic had discharged its obligations required by law in putting together the charge sheet.

He contended further that in drafting the charge sheet, they had in mind only the elements of the offences with which the accused are charged, as the Republic was required to do.

This, they had done and therefore the charges preferred against the accused persons were proper. The Republic, according to the Court of Appeal, broke down the charges brought against the accused persons before concluding that the charges were properly filed.

The Court of Appeal, in its judgment delivered by Bartels-Kodwo JA, analysed the rules of the Court of Appeal as well as Ghanaian cases on what constitutes a proper charge. The court observed that in the appeal brought by Ato Forson, the problem he had with the charges was with the expression “without due cause and authorisation.”

The court stated that it was of the opinion that it was “wrong to isolate phrases or words contained in a charge sheet and claim that those words are vague or do not contain sufficient meaning. It is one of the cardinal rules of interpretation in our profession that documents should be read as a whole when being interpreted.”

The court held that with this in mind, what the appellant should be concerned about is “Cassiel Ato Forson between August 2014 and April 2016 wilfully caused financial loss to the Republic by authorising irrevocable letters of credit valued at €3,950,000 to be established out of which payments amounting to €2,370,000 were made to Big Sea General Trading Ltd of Dubai for the supply of vehicles purporting to be ambulances without due cause and authorisation” and “Cassiel Ato Forson in 2014 in Accra in the Greater-Accra Region of the Republic of Ghana intentionally misapplied the sum of €2,370,000 being public property by causing irrevocable Letters of Credit to be established against the budget of the Ministry of Health in favour of Big Sea General Trading Ltd of Dubai for the supply of vehicles purporting to be ambulances without due cause and authorisation”, and not just the words “without due cause and authorisation.”

Having examined the charges under scrutiny, the Court of Appeal finally held that the charges brought against the accused persons in the Fake Ambulance trial, “contain sufficient particulars as required under Article 19(2)(d) of the 1992 Constitution and Section 112(4) of Act 30.

Dr Ato Forson was represented by his lawyer, Dr Abdul Bassit Aziz Bamba.

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