Call it bail for sale. You will be spot on. In the midst of all the present concerns about the integrity of the security system, we are witnessing crime in the crime office. Corruption Watch (CW) has caught police officers taking money in order to grant bail.
This is happening in spite of the clear position of the law on bail as stated in Article 14(4) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and Section 96 (1-6) of the Criminal Procedure Act (1960).
In addition, the Ghana Police Service has repeatedly stressed that police enquiry bail is free.
CW investigations uncovered multiple cases in which some officers of the Ghana Police Service extorted money from suspects in their custody in return for bail.
CW conducted the investigations, which involved undercover operations like embedding CW investigators with families and friends of suspects, in randomly selected police stations in three different regions – the Greater Accra, Central, and Ashanti regions.
CW guaranteed the protection of the identity of most suspects, since their cases were yet to be closed, and therefore gave confidentiality to some of the specific cases followed.
Cash for bail
In the specific matter of cash for bail, police officers were captured demanding or receiving cash rewards between GH¢50.00 and GH¢1,000.00.
The means of taking the money in some police stations come under the pretext of a charge for bail; others induce the relatives into giving bribes or facilitation fees for their relatives to be released while some delay the process to make the families believe that they are stressing and risking a lot to get their relatives released. In the end, this induces the dishing out of money as a form of appreciation.
Madina Divisional Police Command
We start from the Madina Divisional Police Command located in the La-Nkwantanang Municipality. Charging for police enquiry bail was not a secret and a Crime Officer by the name CPL Hannah Idan demanded money in the open aggressively without applying diplomacy. It was as though the payment was a legal requirement.
What CW captured was a clear indication that other officers were aware of the practice.
“You told me you can afford GH¢100.00, but I rejected it only for you to be offering me GH¢20.00 after all the time wasted the entire day”! CPL Idan lamented in a captured tape.
Mr John Tormeti, father of the suspect, however, declined payment on the basis that he knew bail is supposed to be free.
In a follow up interview with Corporal Hannah Idan, she admitted to Corruption Watch that she received the money from the relatives of the suspect. However, she insisted she received the money as a gesture of appreciation but not upon demand.
“We are not supposed to take money for bail, I know that and then taking money from the person wasn’t proper, that one I know I’m guilty,” she confessed.
Kumasi Central Police Station
Elsewhere, at the Kumasi Central Police Station in the Ashanti region, a Criminal Investigations Department officer of the Anti-Robbery Unit identified as Solomon allegedly received 800 Ghana cedis in return for the release of two suspects in November 2018.
According to the facts, after bail requirements for the suspects were met, the suspects were asked to pay 800 Ghana cedis before bail.
However, Police investigator Solomon failed to confirm or deny claims he received money in return to bail the suspects. In fact, he called the bluff of CW and bragged he was not afraid of the Special Prosecutor nor the Inspector General of Police.
“Whether or not, I don’t have to tell you, listen to me, do you know who you are talking to? You could be calling from the office of the Special Prosecutor, I’m not going anywhere, I’m here, do your worst, report to anybody that you like, report even to the President, I’m here, do you think I fear court? I’ve been going to court for the past 20 years, if you don’t know, maybe you had not been born by then,” the officer angrily responded to CW’s Frederick Asiamah.
Kpeshie Nungua Police Station
At the Nungua Police Station, CW spotted a physically challenged man sitting in a wheelchair at the entrance of the charge office for over 30 minutes looking desperate. When a CW investigator approached him, he lamented about being charged GH¢400.00 for the release of his son by the commander.
A CW investigator decided to sponsor the payment of GH¢200.00. According to the father of the suspect, the commander directed that the money be given to one crime officer identified as Michael Lomotey who was in charge of the case.
Mr Lomotey, after taking the GH¢200.00 went in and came back without the suspect to demand an extra GH¢20.00 for his colleagues at the charge office before allowing the defendant out of the cells. “Give me GH¢20.00 for those at the charge office,” he asked.
According to him, he found it strange that his commander himself charged as he normally would have directed them to make the demand.
However, when CW officially contacted Chief Inspector Michael Lomotey, he put up a spirited defense and denied receiving any money from the associates of the suspect in return to release him on bail although CW captured him on video taking money.
He then called CW later to give different reasons he was captured taking money. According to him, “that money was a part payment of the debt owed by the suspect, the money could be my change I was taking from someone.”
At the District Police Headquarters, Kasoa, in the Central Region, CW captured a female Crime Officer who identified herself as Lance CPL Pearl Sefakor. She charged GH¢150.00 after which she directed the family to buy envelop and conceal the money before handing it over.
When the Crime Officer was contacted for response by CW, she denied charging and receiving any amount from the suspect.
At the same station and on the same case, another officer who introduced himself as Anthony Amofa took GH¢100.00 from the plaintiff as the cost of the arrest of the suspect.
The top hierarchy of the Ghana Police Service has continued to emphasise that police officers are not debt collectors.
In a more recent rebuke delivered in January 2019, the Public Relations Office rof the Accra Regional Police Command, Deputy Superintendent of Police Mrs Effia Tenge decried errant acts such as bail and fees, debt collection, extortion, and taking personal interest in cases under investigation. She, therefore, cautioned that the service would not condone and connive with officers who violate the law.
However, CW investigators also found many police officers contravening police ethics by engaging in arrest of persons indebted to others and debt collection. As well, many police officers infringed the 48-hour rule that requires the police to present an arrested person before the courts within 48 hours of their arrest or detention.
CW discovered that instead of directing complainants with debt issues, misunderstanding and other minor cases on what the law say and how to use the law properly to address their grievances, the police arrested defendants, kept them in custody and designed a term of payment between the plaintiff and the defendant before granting bail, which is also not free.
Aside taking money for bail, Lance CPL pearl of the Kasoa Police Station was captured offering a debt collection service.
When CW enquired about the debt collection, she acknowledged practicing debt collection and receiving a part payment of the amount the suspect owed the plaintiff.
“The suspect was here to pay part of the money and was pleading for more time to complete the payment,” she admitted.
Nima Police Station
At the Nima Police station, CW observed the frustrations that families go through to bail their relatives and how debt collection by the police was the order of the day.
CW captured a Crime Officer, Stephen Koranteng, popularly known as ‘Osikane’ taking GH¢500.00 from someone who had association with a suspect and assuring the person that the suspect would be bailed the next day.
In another incidence in the same police station, a Crime Officer identified as Prince operated a court service within the police station. He took GH¢3,500.00 from a fraud suspect as the amount involved in the fraud before granting him bail even when the suspect had not appeared before a court of jurisdiction and had not been found guilty by a court.
Sampson Agbavitor, father of the fraud suspect complained about how his son was kept in custody for five days over a fraud allegation he denied knowledge of and how they were made to pay GH¢3,500.00 to Crime Officer Prince in addition to GH¢ 600.00 to facilitate his release without being allowed to meet the complainant.
When CW contacted the Crime Officer, he acknowledged receiving the payment of the GH¢3,500.00 which he classified as exhibit but denied taking a GH¢ 600.00 facilitation fee.
“Yes I took GH¢3,500.00 from the family of the suspect. The GH¢3,500.00 is exhibit but I don’t remember taking GH¢ 600.00 from them,” he added.
Martin Luther Kpebu, private legal practitioner and specialist in Litigation, Mining Law and Corporate Law in an interview with CW was shocked at the conduct of police capture by CW engaged in bail transaction.
“What I saw in the Madina video in particular is a form of corruption and it’s very disappointing,” he added.
He told CW that by law, a suspect cannot be forced to pay a debt amount at the police station if he pleads innocent and can’t pay the money at the police station even if the suspect admits to the crime, “only the court can do that.”
Mr Kpebu disclosed that he took the case of suspects being kept in custody for over 48 hours without appearing in court, particularly during weekends, to court in 2016 and is awaiting judgement on the subject, adding that introducing a weekend court for bail will be the solution to the injustice on suspects through abuse of power by the Police.
Ghana Integrity Initiative
Mr Michael Boadi, fund raiser, Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) advised the police to focus on giving advance training to officers with low ranks since they have direct encounter with ordinary civilians on daily basis, hence are the ones who mostly bend the rules.
This, he said, will ensure reforms in the service and restore civilian confidence in the police and restore the integrity of the Police service which has been a subject of discussion in recent times.
He suggested that an independent external institution be set up to oversee cases between the police and civilians instead of Police Intelligence and Professional Standards to encourage civilians to report cases instead of running to the media.
Chief Supt Benjamin Osei Addae of the Legal Directorate at the Police Headquarters who spoke to CW on the finding on behalf of the Ghana Police Service described the collection of money for bail, custody beyond 48 hours and debt collection as professional misconduct, human right abuse and abuse of power.
“We caution the Police that granting of bail is not supposed to be abused, you can’t keep someone in custody for the purpose of making the person pay off a debt, its wrong, you are abusing the person’s human right and abusing your power as a police officer,” he cautioned.
According to him, police officers have no right to arrest or keep a person in custody over indebtedness, adding that the duty of the police in this case is to direct the complainant to take the case to court and not the police station unless on grounds of fraud.
“Even on grounds of fraud, the case has to be taken to court for the court to rule, the police can’t take the fraud amount from the suspect at the police station, only the court has that power. Debt cases are none of the business of police officer and we are not supposed to collect debt under any circumstance, any police caught in debt collection will be in trouble,” he again warned.
On the breach of the 48-hour bail requirement, Chief Supt Addae emphasised that police work on weekends and holidays, hence officers are put on duty roaster on weekends and holidays so weekend or holiday shouldn’t be the reason for a suspect to be kept beyond the stipulated time.
“Have you ever been to a police station and been told that a particular day is not a working day? Police stations work 24/7 which includes weekends and holidays. You will spend more than 48 hours in police custody only if the case is a murder, rape or robbery case. We will keep you until you appear in court if the case is any of these three although the Supreme Court has ruled that every case is bailable.”
He assured the public that the service will look into any reported abuse of power if evidence in provided to the Police Professional Standard Bureau to support the claim.