A man who was wrongfully sentenced to death and spent 11 years in prison before gaining his freedom, is to be compensated by the state.
This follows a ruling by the Supreme Court ordering the state to pay Wisdom Sarbah a 60-year-old farmer GH¢35,000 compensation.
Sarbah was arrested and detained in 1993, sentenced in September 2003 and released from the Nsawam Prison and acquitted by the Court of Appeal on January 20, 2004.
The appellant battled for 22 years, from the time of his detention through to his trial, acquittal and subsequent compensation by the Supreme Court.
Wisdom was remanded for nine years, before his incarceration in 2009 by the Accra High Court (Division Five).
A five-member Supreme Court panel, presided over by the Chief Justice, Mrs. Georgina Theodora Wood, held that the appellant did nothing wrong to warrant conviction.
Wisdom and his younger brother, Matthew Kwame Sarbah, were arrested for allegedly murdering a neighbour. They were said to have inflicted machete wounds on the deceased; which Wisdom denied.
The prosecution is said to have neglected Matthew’s confession that Wisdom was nowhere near at the time of the murder.
Kwame is still in custody.
Wisdom’s appeal for compensation at the same court was rejected which prompted him to seek redress at the Supreme Court.
Unanimously granting the application for compensation filed by Ahuma Ocansey, counsel for Wisdom, the court averred that the prosecution’s investigations were wishy-washy, incongruous and a curtailment of the appellant’s fundamental human rights.
The Justices said the ruling would not open the floodgates for litigations in matters of such nature because the parameters in arriving at the decision were clearly defined.
Making references to Article 14(7) of the 1992 Constitution, the Judges maintained that their verdict was discretionary, noting that the said provision was silent on whether to grant compensation or not, because of the use of the word “may”.
Article 14(7) of the 1992 Constitution states “Where a person who has served the whole, or part of his sentence is acquitted on appeal by a court, other than the Supreme Court, the court may certify to the Supreme Court that the person acquitted be paid compensation; and the Supreme Court may, upon examination of all the facts and the certificate of the court concerned, award such compensation as it may think fit; or, where the acquittal is by the Supreme Court, it may order compensation to be paid to the person acquitted”.
Appearing dejected, pale and traumatised in a moth-eaten dress, Wisdom told The Ghanaian Times that he was psychologically and emotionally traumatised.
Wisdom, who now walks with the aid of a stick, said that was not his condition prior to his conviction, that his health deteriorated due to the number of years he spent on remand.
“My brother, I have lost everything since the court convicted me. I am frozen and horribly maimed, that is the reason why I struggle to walk,” he lamented.
Mr. Ocansey Ahuma described the ruling as pioneering, a consolidation of democracy, the rule of law and entrenchment of the fundamental human rights of people.
By Malik Sullemana & Felix Akaho Jnr.