IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF JUDICATURE
IN THE HIGH COURT
ACCRA - A.D 2018
THE REPUBLIC - (PLaintiff)
IRENE SARPONG THOMPSON EX PARTE ISAAC NII MOI THOMPSON - (Defendants)
DATE: 5 TH NOVEMBER, 2018
SUIT NO: CR/514/18
JUDGES: ERIC K. BAFFOUR, ESQ.JUSTICE OF THE HIGH COURT
This application emanates out of a divorce suit filed by the Applicant. The marriage has been dissolved but the embers of the smoldering fire of the marriage still lingers on and this committal application is a testament to what replaces love when the love that once made the couple inseparable birds flies out of a relationship. What replaces love is nothing but deep hatred, bitterness, regret and mutual animosity.
What has precipitated this application can be found in a ruling delivered by Her Ladyship, Hafisata Amelobeba on the 29th of May, 2018 wherein the Applicant had filed a motion for the Respondent to vacate the matrimonial home as the property settled in her favour and located at Agbogba/Abla Adjei in the Ga East District in the final judgment of the court delivered on the 14th of November, 2017. An earlier inspection report found the house not to have been completed and the Applicant proposed to offer an amount of GH¢30.000 to enable the Respondent complete the Agbogba property and move out. The court ordered for the Applicant to pay GH¢30.000 to the Respondent and for the Respondent to move out of the property within one month, that is by 29th of June, 2018. That amount was paid in court in court on the 29th of May, 2018. To Applicant the Respondent has flouted the orders of the court by failing to vacate the matrimonial home by the 29th of June, 2018 as directed by the matrimonial court and that the continuous stay of the Respondent after 29th of June, 2018 is a clear act of contempt for which he seeks that the court punish the Respondent for her failure to comply with the orders of the court.
Respondent in an affidavit in opposition filed on the 19th of July, 2018 has not only resisted the application but contended that the present application is malicious and brought out of bad faith to fulfill a vindictive passion of the Applicant. Respondent claim that the failure on the part of the Applicant in fulfilling his obligation under the judgment of the matrimonial court affected her ability to find alternative accommodation as she had to lose her earlier arranged accommodation she intended to rent and had to scout for a different accommodation. And thinks that it was only fair that she be afforded ample opportunity to find alternative accommodation. Respondent then proceeds in a way to attack the judgment of my learned sister for being unjust and inequitable as there are two houses and contend that at least one should have been settled in her favour and has accordingly appealed against the decision of the court. And with her present predicament of not finding alternative accommodation, she has little control on when she finds that accommodation and believes her conduct of not finding alternative accommodation is not wilful disobedience of the orders of the court.
I quote in extenso verbatim what contempt is from the decision of of the Supreme Court in the case of REPUBLIC v BANK OF GHANA; EX PARTE BENJAMIN DUFFOUR, J4/34/2018, dated 06/06/2018 as:
“The offence of contempt of court is quasi-criminal in that it is a civil wrong with criminal consequences. Its purport is to protect the dignity of the courts and the integrity of the administration of justice. Contempt of court is thus constituted by any act or conduct that tends to undermine the authority of the court, see: Republic v Osei Bonsu II Mamponghene and Ors; Ex parte Amadie and Buor [2007-2008] SCGLR at 566. These include conduct that is calculated to erode confidence in the law and the courts, see: per Bamford Addo JSC in Republic v. Mensah-Bonsu [1995-96] 1 GLR 377.
The impugned conduct is often disregard of the judgment or orders of court. While contempt happens when during, or following the pendency of a matter before the court, a person scorns the orders of a court or disregards such pendency, the offence is against the court itself, for it brings its authority, and the administration of the law into disrespect, or disregard” per Baffoe Bonnie JSC.
Without more I adopt the above as my words as it aptly captures my appreciation of what contempt is about. Contempt application being a quasi-criminal trial the Applicant is under duty to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. See IN RE EFFIDUASE STOOL AFFAIRS; REPUBLIC v. ODURO NUMAPAU, PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL HOUSE OF CHIEFS & OTHERS; EX –PARTE AMEYAW II (NO.2),(1998-99) SCGLR 639 wherein the Supreme Court noted on the standard as follows that:
“Since contempt of court is quasi criminal and the punishment for it might include a fine or imprisonment the standard of proof required was proof beyond reasonable doubt. An applicant must therefore first make out a prima facie case of contempt before the court could consider the defence put up by the respondents”
See also REPUBLIC v HIGH COURT; EX PARTE JOSHUA NMAI ADDO  83 G.M.J 7 @13.
The application being in the nature of civil contempt the ingredients that the Applicant must prove beyond reasonable doubt to the court have been set out in the case of REPUBLIC v SITO; EX PARTE FORDJOUR [2001 – 2002] SCGLR 322; that one there must be a judgment or order requiring the contemnor to do or abstain from doing something, two it must be shown that the contemnor knows what precisely he is expected to do or abstain from doing; three, it must be shown that he failed to comply with the terms of the judgment or order and four that his disobedience is willful. See also OPOKU v LIBHERR FRANCE SAS  1 SCGLR 159 @162. Exhibit ‘NM3’ being the judgment of the Divorce and Matrimonial Court dated 14th November, 2017 settled the Abla Adjei/Adansi property in favour of the Respondent and the Applicant was ordered to complete the building within twenty four months.
It is a fact that subsequently the Applicant filed a motion for the Respondent to vacate the matrimonial home and in the ruling of the court on the 29th of May, 2018 as seen in Ex ‘NM6’ the court ruled, among other things, as follows:
“The Petitioner is to pay the sum of GH¢30.000 to the Respondent in court today. The Respondent is to move out of the property within one month from today that is by 29th of June, 2018. The Petitioner shall then complete as ordered by the court. The court notes that the sum of GH¢30,000 has been paid to the Respondent in court who together with counsel have acknowledged the receipt of same”
It is also worthy of note that Ex ‘NM7’ is also a receipt of the payment and also states that:
“received from Isaac Nii Moi Thompson, … the amount of Gh¢30,000 being the amount ordered to be paid per the judgment dated 14/11/2017 of the High Court, Divorce and Matrimonial Division … after which payment the Respondent, Irene Sarpong Thompson will vacate the matrimonial home within one month from the date of this payment”.
From the above I find as a fact that that the court ordered the Respondent to vacate the matrimonial home by the 29th of June, 2018 upon payment to her of the Gh¢30,000 which said payment receipt was issued as an acknowledgment of same. I find that this order was known to the Respondent and was fully aware of same. And I find that accordingly a prima facie case had been established by the Applicant. It is an examination of the defence of the Respondent that will show whether it raises a reasonable doubt as to her guilt or that there is none Applicant should be deemed to have proved his case beyond reasonable doubt.
Respondent in her affidavit in opposition does not dispute receipt of the sum of Ghc¢30.000 nor does she deny knowledge of the specific order of the court for her to vacate the matrimonial home by 29th of June, 2018. Her sole defence is that her failure to vacate the property is not wilful as the failure by the Applicant in fulfilling his obligation under the judgment affected her ability to find alternative accommodation and prays for more time to find alternative accommodation. Respondent was unable to show the specific failure on the part of the Applicant in fulfilling his obligation under the order of the court. The obligation was for the Applicant to pay the Gh¢30.000 to Respondent and for Respondent to move out of the matrimonial home within one month. The money was paid but Respondent has failed to move out and the claim of non-fulfillment of Applicant’s obligation cannot be correct, I so find and hold.
There is even a more troubling defence put up by the Respondent as found in paragraphs 13 and 14 of the affidavit in opposition which states as follows:
“13. That a reading of the judgment from which this application emanates will reveal without a doubt that there were two substantive houses of the marriage, both which are complete and habitable and the settlement of either on myself would have equitably dealt with the situation we are found now but that same was not done prompting my appeal and our current situation.
14. That in my case pending this said appeal and non-completion of the rather substandard house that was settled on me I had made positive proposals for the court to allow me finish the said house out of the rental money paid out to me and to move in to no avail”.
What the above depositions seeks to do is to claim that the non-compliance of the orders of the court is due to the unjustness or the unfairness of the orders of the court. Can I as Justice of the High Court preside over the propriety and correctness of the orders of another High Court Judge? Can I preside over an appeal in respect of a decision of another High Court Judge? Surely not and to depose that she Respondent had not complied with the orders of the court because it was inequitable cannot be permitted to find a place.
In any case as Respondent claim to have filed an appeal, my simple answer is that an appeal does not operate as a stay of execution of the orders of the court and the fact of an appeal simpliciter cannot be advanced as a ground to disobey the orders of the court. Rule 27 of the Court of Appeal Rules, C. I 19 clearly states as follows:
“An appeal shall not operate as a stay of execution or of proceedings under the judgment or decision appealed against except where the court below or the Court other- wise orders-
(a) in the case of the court below, upon application made orally or by motion on notice to it; and
(b) in the case of the Court, upon application made to it by motion on notice, and except as provided in this rule no intermediate act or proceedings shall be invalidated.
There is no order from the High Court or the Court of Appeal staying execution. And there is no application pending for the stay of execution of the orders of the court. As to the unfairness of the decision or otherwise is not for me to determine and I find that the defence of the Respondent does not raise a reasonable doubt at all to the case of the Applicant or to her guilt. It cannot also be said that the two years granted by the court to the Applicant to complete the Abla Adjei property has elapsed. The claim of the Respondent having flouted the orders of the court and being in contempt is proved and I find the Respondent guilty of the quasi criminal charge.
I will grant an opportunity for the Respondent to purge herself of the contempt and accordingly adjourns to the 26th of November, 2018 for sentencing.