JELR 81171 (WACA)    
West Africa Court of Appeal  ·  West Africa [For WACA cases]
Other Citations
1944 10 WACA 233-235
Core Terms Beta
public officer
trial judge
west african court of appeal
criminal code
evidence material
ample evidence
elected municipal member
legislative council of the gold coast colony
point of law
respect of the duties of his office
trial judge’s refusal
appeal william
case augustus william kojo thompson
day’s imprisonment
default of payment
first sight
gold coast
great extent
grounds of appeal
hard labour
later stage
legislative council
months’ imprisonment
only real point
opinion of the court
sentences of imprisonment
such officer juror
third ground
twelfth grounds

Harragin. C.J. (Gold Coast) :- In this case Augustus William Kojo Thompson, a Member of the Legislative Council of the Gold Coast Colony, was convicted by a Judge sitting without a jury upon two counts. The first was corruption by a public officer, and the second extortion by a public officer. He was sentenced to one day’s imprisonment and to a fine of £200 in default of payment three months’ imprisonment without hard labour on each count, the sentences of imprisonment to be concurrent, those of fine to be non-cumulative, and this is an appeal William from that conviction.

There were set out twelve grounds of appeal. The first, second, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grounds in effect related to the question as to whether or not the appellant was a public officer within the meaning of section 5 of Cap. 9.

In the course of the hearing before the trial Judge a case was stated on this point of law to the West African Court of Appeal. The question upon which the opinion of the Court was asked was whether the elected Municipal Member for the town of Accra in the Legislative Council of the Gold Coast Colony was a public officer within the definition of “ public officer” in section 5 of the Criminal Code (Cap. 9).

The answer given to this question by the West African Court of Appeal was in the affirmative.

It should be noted that before expressing any opinion on the case stated, the West African Court of Appeal returned it to the trial Judge for amendment. This fact is mentioned as Counsel for the appellant argued before us that in view of the finding of the trial Judge that the appellant was not a public officer the case should not have been stated to the West African Court of Appeal and that in any event the West African Court of Appeal should not have returned it to the trial Judge for amendment. As these matters had already been disposed of by the West African Court of Appeal on the stated case it is not competent for this Court to reconsider them. Learned Counsel for the appellant appreciating the position desired formally to express his dissatisfaction with the decision of the West African Court of Appeal on the case stated for future purposes.

In the third ground at first sight there appeared to be more substance. Counsel for the appellant argued that there was no allegation or evidence that the appellant had any duties to perform in respect of which he agreed or offered to permit his conduct to be influenced. This omission might have been fatal but for the provisions of section 410 of the Criminal Code which reads as follows :-

“A public officer, juror. or voter is guilty of corruption in respect of his office or vote if he directly or indirectly agrees or offers to permit his conduct as such officer juror or voter to be influenced by the gift, promise, or prospect of any valuable consideration to be received by him or by any other person from any person whomsoever.”

from which it is clear that in cases of corruption by a public officer it is only necessary to prove that he agreed to permit his conduct as such to be influenced by the gift or promise and he is thereupon deemed guilty of corruption in respect of the duties of his office. It therefore follows that the duties of his office need not be specifically set out in the information or proved by evidence.

The only other point that might be called a point of law that was raised by Counsel for the appellant is to be found in the fifth ground of appeal where it is alleged that the appellant was greatly prejudiced by the trial Judge’s refusal to issue a subpoena for the attendance of His Excellency the Governor. We are quite unable to imagine in what way the evidence of the Governor would have assisted the appellant. In any event from the record it would appear that the trial Judge did not refuse to summon the Governor but that he wrote to the appellant stating that he would not do so until he was satisfied that the Governor was likely to give evidence material to the trial and nowhere in the record do we find that any effort was made to comply with this direction. We wish to make it perfectly clear that the Court has inherent jurisdiction to prevent the abuse of its process by refusing to issue a subpoena to a witness unless it is satisfied that that witness is likely to give evidence material to the issue before it. The Court has the right and indeed the duty to satisfy itself before ordering a subpoena to issue that 4 the request to call the witness is a proper one and is not merely frivolous, vexatious or obstructive.

The remaining grounds of appeal may be taken together. They deal entirely with the facts of the case and we may say at once that there was ample evidence upon which the trial Judge could come to the conclusions that he did.

Numerous discrepancies in the evidence of the witnesses for the prosecution appear in the record, but we are of the opinion that they were not in any way fatal to the learned trial Judge’s findings. In fact on the evidence before him it is difficult for us to think that he could have come to any other conclusion. The Crown case is to a great extent corroborated by the evidence of the appellant himself in that he admitted that he was at the house in question with the intention of obtaining money and that this money was to be given to him in order that he should absent himself from the Legislative Council and fail to deliver a speech in that Council which he had already prepared and which would have been detrimental to the interests of the Association of West African Merchants. His case was however that his sole object in trying to obtain this money was in order to produce it at some later stage as proof of the perfidy of this Association and to assist him in exposing the Association. It will thus be seen that the only real point at issue between the Crown and the appellant was with regard to the intention of the Appellant in his attempts to obtain the money. There was ample evidence before the trial Judge to justify him in rejecting the ingenious explanation of the appellant and accepting the version of the prosecution.

This appeal is accordingly dismissed.