ACCRA - A.D 2016
THE REPUBLIC - (PLaintiff)

DATE:  11TH MAY, 2016
CASE NO:  CR 127/2016




[1] Any conduct which interferes with or undermines the authority of the Courts and administration of justice is contempt of court. Oswald on Contempt 3rd Edition defines contempt of court at page 6 as:

“…..Any conduct that tends to bring the authority and administration of the law into disrespect or disregards, or to interfere with or prejudice parties, litigants or their witnesses during litigation”.


[2] In National Union of Seamen vrs. TUC [1982-83] GLR 943, it was held that:

“a refusal or neglect to do an act required by a court order within a specified time or the disobedience to an order requiring a person to abstain from doing a specified act amounted to a civil contempt.”


[3] The power of the High Court to punish for contempt is provided in S.10 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) and Articles 19(12) and 126 of the 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana.


[4] Although Article 19(11) enacts that no person shall be convicted of a criminal offence unless the offence was defined and the penalty thereof prescribed in a written law, Clause 12 of Article 19 nevertheless stipulates that the superior courts reserve the power to punish a person for contempt notwithstanding that the acts or omissions constituting it, is not defined in a written law and the penalty thereof is not so prescribed.


[5] What constitutes contempt has been considered in legion of decided cases. It was judicially articulated in IN RE: EFFIDUASE STOOL AFFAIRS (No.2) EX PARTE AMEYAW II (1998-99) SCGLR 639 @ 660 where the Supreme Court speaking through ACQUAH JSC (as he then was) summed up the law in an apt and concise manner as follows:

“In brief, contempt is constituted by any act or omissions tending to obstruct or interfere with the orderly administration of justice, or to impair the dignity of the court or respect for its authority.”


[6] In R v SITO I; EXPARTE FORDJOUR (2001-2002) SCGLR 322 the Supreme Court gave yet another dimension to the definition of contempt. Their  Lordships gave the elements constituting  the offence of contempt as that:-

a) there should have been a judgment or order which required the contemnor to do or abstain from doing something;

b) the contemnor knew what precisely he was expected to do or abstain from doing;         and

c) that he failed to comply with the terms of that judgment or the order and that his disobedience was willful.

[7] It may, however, be argued that the definition given supra may not be sufficient enough because it does not go far to take into account, the possibility that contempt may be committed in a pending court proceedings when no order or judgment has been handed down in that case. In other words, acts or conduct prejudicial to the res litiga in a pending action. See REPUBLIC v.   AKENTEN II; EX PARTE YANKYERA [1993-94] 1 GLR 246, CA.


[8] In my considered opinion, any act or omission done ostensibly to prejudice the fair trial or outcome of a case even where no order has been made constitutes contempt of court. This legal reasoning finds expression in the case of R v KOFI TOTOBI QUAKYI & ORS _ Civil Motion No. 45/94 delivered on 26/7/94 (unreported) where the Supreme Court by a majority of 6:1 held that a superior court has jurisdiction to entertain contempt proceedings brought before it even though no order of the court has been interfered with.


[9] In sum, therefore, any act or omission done to prejudice the fair trial or outcome of a case, or likely to bring the administration of justice into disrepute or interfere with any pending litigation and or to scandalize a court after the trial of a case is contemptuous of the court. Contempt of court therefore serves the primary function of protecting the sanctity and integrity of the court and court proceedings.


[10] By a Notice of Motion filed on 1st day of March, 2016 by Counsel Prince Frederick Nii- Ashie Neequaye on behalf of Mark Dennis Amoo, the 1st Applicant in this instant application and nine others, the Applicants seek an order for committal for contempt of court directed against the Respondents for:

1. Frustrating the hearing and determination of the injunction motion pending before the High Court in Suit No. IL/0017/2016 and thereby frustrating the administration of justice and

2. Forcing the Plaintiffs to drop their claim before the High Court by writing to Plaintiffs on 29th February and forcing the Plaintiff to accept the terms of the fraudulent redundancy package being challenged in the High Court in Suit No. IL/0017/2016



[11] It is convenient before outlining the issues raised in the instant contempt proceedings to provide a little background of the case.

The facts which are not in any serious contention and have given rise to this instant case are that the Applicants, who are employees of Standard Chartered Bank Ghana Limited issued out a writ against the bank and the Union of Industry Commerce and Finance Workers (UNICOF of TUC, Ghana) seeking a declaration that a Memorandum of Understanding dated January 22, 2016 signed between the 1st and 2nd Defendants on behalf of the Plaintiffs is fraudulent and does not have the mandate of the Plaintiffs.


[12] From the writ of summons attached to the accompanying affidavit, one of the reliefs was for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants whether by themselves or their agents, servants etc from implementing the Memorandum of Understanding dated January 22,

2016 between the 1st and 2nd Defendants. Aside the writ of summons, the Applicants’ Solicitor on the same day the writ was filed also filed a Motion for an Order of Interlocutory Injunction to restrain the Defendants from implementing the said Memorandum of Understanding. From the available affidavit evidence, the 1st Defendant entered appearance to the action and filed a Statement of Defence and also filed an affidavit in opposition to the motion for injunction.


The Applicants’ Case and Arguments

[13] It is the case of the Applicants that whilst the case and the Motion for Injunction was still pending at the Labour Court Division of the High Court for final determination the Respondents/Contemnors herein regardless wrote a letter dated February 29, 2016 titled “Letter of Separation on Account of Redundancy” asking the Applicants to accept the terms of the letter as full and final settlement of all their claims against the Respondents’ outfit, that is the bank. Additionally, it was averred in paragraphs 8 and 9 of the accompanying affidavit filed with the motion that the  1st Respondent under the direction of the 2nd Respondent authored the aforesaid letter despite the pendency of the matter in Suit No. IL/0017/2016 and the motion for injunction that was pending, to the knowledge of the Respondents and their counsel.


[14] Arguing in support of the motion, learned Counsel for the Applicants submitted that the Respondents proceeding to author the letter of February 29, 2016 and thereby implementing the Memorandum of Understanding of January 22, 2016 in full knowledge of the court action is clearly contemptuous of the court as they sought to give themselves judgment in the pending case. Counsel argued that the respondents have acted in a manner which is in flagrant disregard of the court action and aimed at prejudicing the outcome of the pending suit. It is his submission also that the action of the respondents was willful.  He relied on such cases  as  REPUBLIC  v.  MOFFAT AND OTHERS; EX PARTE ALLOTEY [1971] 2 GLR 391-403 and OKINE v. MAAWU (1976) GLR 265 in support of the legal proposition that even though the Respondents are not parties to the original suit but employees of the 1st Defendant Bank, they can still be committed for contempt.


[15] Having referred the court to some averments as set out in the 1st Respondents’ Affidavit In Opposition particularly paragraphs 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 11 learned Counsel strongly submitted that it was clear that the conduct of the Respondents in writing the letter to implement the Memorandum of Understanding using a ruling delivered by the Court in a different matter and in Suit No, IL/0016/2016 as justification was a calculated plot intended to prejudice the outcome of Suit No. IL/0017/2016 pending before a different Judge in Labour Court 1. He thus urged on the court to attach the Respondents in contempt.


The Respondents Case & Arguments

[16] In response, the Respondents have equally with quite an amount of force argued that they did no wrong by writing the letter dated February 29, 2016 and sending out same to the Applicants herein. The Respondents by their filed similar affidavits in opposition contend that on January 28, 2016 two suits of similar nature [Suits Numbers IL/0017/2016 and IL/0016/2016] were instituted  by the Applicants herein both at the High Court, Labour Divisions one and two respectively with respect to the same subject matter and praying the court for similar reliefs.


[17] According to the Respondents [as averred to in the affidavit in opposition of the 1st Respondent] the Applicants further filed interlocutory injunctions to restrain the Bank from proceeding with the Redundancy Package contained in the Memorandum of Understanding dated January 22, 2016. According to her, in the course of the proceedings, two Plaintiffs in Suit No IL/0016/2016 withdrew from the action leaving the instant Applicants as the Plaintiffs in the two actions before the Labour Court 1 and 2 respectively. The 1st Respondent averred that on February 26, 2016 the injunction application in Suit No. IL/0016/2016 was determined by the Court and refused. She further averred that following the dismissal of the injunction the Bank proceeded to carry out the Redundancy Package and in effect implement the Memorandum of Understanding. It was also averred that despite the pendency of the injunction application in Suit No. IL/0017/2016, the Bank went ahead to implement the Redundancy Package because according to the 1st Respondent, the decision of Her Ladyship, Laurenda Owusu J of February 26, 2016, constitutes a decision of the High Court as a whole. It is argued that the decision legitimized the Respondent’s decision to author and serve letter, the subject matter of this application.


[18] In support of the Respondents’ case, learned Counsel relied on OPOKU v LIBHERR FRANCE SAS & ANOTHER [2012] 1 SCGLR 159. Counsel submitted based on the reasoning of the Supreme Court that Courts should be anxious to contain the power to punish for contempt of Court (which has been castigated as wide and arbitrary), within the narrowest possible confines in order to safeguard the fundamental rights of the individual to liberty.


[19] On the issue that there is the pending injunction application in Suit No. IL/0017/2016 in Labour Court 1 to restrain the Bank from implementing the Redundancy Package, which legal process the Respondents’ counsel who also represents the bank has filed process to oppose, counsel acknowledged the fact of the existence of the injunction. However, Counsel reiterated the fact that the Court’s ruling of February 26, 2016 vested the Bank with a right, which the Respondents acted upon. Accordingly, learned Counsel has strongly urged on the court to dismiss the contempt proceedings as lacking any merit.


Analysis & Cou rt’s Opinion :

[20] To begin with, it is a settled rule that the offence of contempt of court is quasi-criminal, thus the standard of proof required is that of proof beyond reasonable doubt1. For,  it  is  provided in S.13(1) of the Evidence  Act,  1975  (NRCD  323)  that  in  any civil  or  criminal  action  the  burden of persuasion as to the commission by a party of a crime which is directly in issue requires proof beyond reasonable doubt.


[21] Based on the nature of contempt and the policy rationale for the strict proof of same, Osei Hwere J. (as he then was) in R v. BEKOE & ORS; EX PARTE ADJEI (1982-83) 1 GLR 91 opined that a civil contempt partook of the nature of a criminal charge because conviction might entail imprisonment. As a result, His Lordship posited that, the principle of law was quite clear that  where a person is charged with contempt of court, his guilt should be proved with the same strictness as required in a criminal trial of proof beyond reasonable doubt.


[22] Guided by the legal principles so enumerated supra, I shall apply myself to the parameters so set and to determine as to whether or not the Respondents/Contemnors herein have indeed committed a willful contempt.


[23] Needless to stress, I have critically and analytically studied the motion paper and the supporting affidavits as well as the annexures vis-à-vis the affidavits in opposition and the exhibits attached thereto. I have equally painstakingly considered the arguments of Counsel both in support of and against the application. Upon a deep introspection of the facts and careful consideration of the issue raised in this application I hold the respectful view that a case of contempt has been properly made against both Respondents herein.


[24] In the first place, there is the overwhelming evidence that the suit involving the bank and the Applicants herein as Defendants pending before the Labour Court Division of the High Court, KANGAH v KYERE SUPRA (1979) GLR 458 and R v HIGH COURT, ACCRA  EXPARTE LARYEA MENSAH (1998-99) SCGLR 360


Accra was brought to their attention as senior officers of the bank. Nevertheless, they disregarded the court process and went ahead to author the letter to the Applicants and in effect implement the Redundancy Package, the very act for which the application had been brought to prohibit. It has been argued on behalf of the Respondents that two of the Applicants withdrew from the suit and therefore the Applicants were the same Plaintiffs in both suits with the similar applications for injunction and so the action and application pending constitutes an abuse of process. I will revisit the issue in the course of this Decision.


[25] The test stated in R v SITO I EXPARTE FORDJOUR SUPRA and referred to earlier is the general rule for contempt. it is trite law, however, that it is not only an order/judgment of the court if flouted or disobeyed may give rise to contempt of court. Any action or omission  done  either overtly or covertly or anything done ostensibly to prejudice the res litiga and the outcome of a case or   the  fair  trial  even  where  no  order  has  been  made  constitutes  contempt  of  court.    See Supreme Court decision in R v KOFI TOTOBI QUAKYI & ORS SUPRA



[26] It is worth repeating that in paragraphs 4 and 5 of the 1st Respondent’s affidavit in opposition and paragraphs 3 and 4 of the 2nd Respondent’s affidavit in opposition, it was acknowledged and averred that the pendency of the action and the injunction was known to the Respondents as senior officers of the bank. This is a material averment which confirms the Respondents act as willful as they had knowledge of the pendency of the application to restrain the Bank but nevertheless went ahead to implement the redundancy package.


[27] It is my judgment that once the 1st and 2nd Respondents herein were seized with notice of the action and application pending before the Labour Court 1 ( a court of competent jurisdiction) wherein the subject matter was essentially that of the Redundancy Package, the suit was sub judice and, the Respondents undermined the authority of the court when they usurped the power of the court to write letters to implement the package. With the utmost respect to Counsel, the ruling of  my learned sister Laurenda Owusu, J did not determine the application pending in  another  court  of competent jurisdiction.  The  OPOKU v  LIBHERR FRANCE  SAS  &  ANOTHER  Supra cited by Counsel as authority for and the justification of the Respondents action is inapplicable and therefore a poor guide. That case deals with a filed writ of summons without a motion for  injunction and for reliefs the Court found to have no link to the action of the Respondents  Company. It is not an authority for saying when there is a pending motion for injunction, one can proceed to ignore same by doing the very act intended to be injuncted.


[28] To leave no doubt as to the letter authored by the 1st Respondent it is desirable to set out here below in extenso, Exhibit MD6:

“Standard Chartered

29th February 2016. Amoo,

Mark Dennis Implementation

Manager Bank ID: 1008042


Dear Mark,



Following our consultation meetings held with you from 26th January in writing that your employment will be terminated by reason of redundancy on 29th February 2016.


As part of the consultation process, efforts were made to offer you alternative employment within the Bank. Unfortunately, we are currently unable to offer you any suitable placement elsewhere in the Bank.


You will remain eligible for consideration for a discretionary variable compensation award for the performance year 2015 as per the Bank’s policy. An award will be subject to the Group’s Claw-back Policy and Group Variable Compensation Policy as amended from time to time. Should any award be made, this will be payable on the Bank’s normal payment date in or around March



On the termination of your employment you will receive a redundancy payment of GHS


180,096.03, after total deductions. The details of the payment are attached for your reference and this will be credited into your bank account by 2nd March, 2016.

On or before your last day of employment with the Bank, we would appreciate it if you could ensure that the proper handover is done and the exit checklist is completed with your line manager and HR. Please ensure that you comply with your legal duty not to disclose any confidential information of the Bank to which you had access, even after leaving the Bank’s employment.


Please contact Head of HR for further clarification and return the signed copy of this letter to her at your earliest convenience.


Please note that this constitutes the final settlement of the Bank’s liabilities and upon your acceptance, this will be taken as acceptance of the terms of your redundancy and that upon settlement of this amount, you will have no further claims against the Bank. (emphasis highlighted) We regret very much that this course of action has proved necessary and would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the past contributions to the Bank, and wish you every success in the future.

Yours faithfully, (Sgd) Rosie Ebe-Arthur

Head, HR Ghana & West Africa


For Standard Chartered Bank


[29] In the opinion of the court, the above letter and in particular the highlighted paragraph that starts “Please note that this constitutes the final settlement of the Bank’s liabilities…” was willful because it undermines the authority of the court to the extent that it determines the very reason of the suit. In other words, the letter “end-runs” the suit to the extent that it pre-empts the determination of same by a court of competent jurisdiction. According to the Respondents because the applications in the two suits are similar and the parties are the same, they were vested with a right by the ruling of February 26, 2016 and therefore had the right to ignore the other pending application. This argument is flawed. Clearly, the substance of the complaint was that there is a pending application before the court differently constituted and yet to be pronounced upon.

Whether the Applicants are the same persons and with the same claim or not was not in the province of the Respondents to say so or determine. Only the Court before whom the case is pending ought to make that determination.


[30] The obligatory nature of court orders (and I dare say, Court process/application when known to a party) requiring an unquestioned obedience thereto until the order is revoked and/or the application is determined was succinctly stated in the case of Rusfell v. East Anglia Rly ER

201 at p 206. as follows per Truro, LC:


“It is an established rule of this court that it is not open to any party to question the orders of this court or to question any process issued under the authority of this court  by  disobedience. I know of no act of this court which may not be questioned in a proper forum or on a proper application but  I think it is not competent for any one … to disobey any orders  of the court… I consider the rule to be of such importance to the interest and safety of the public, and to the administration of justice, that it ought on all occasions to be inflexibly maintained”.

The principle was adopted by the Supreme Court in Republic v. High Court, Accra ex parte Afoda [2001-2002] SC GLR 768.


[31] Further, in the opinion of the Court, a party or his lawyer has no right to cherry-pick which orders of the Court that party must obey. Any breach or non-compliance by anybody who ought to comply with that decision must be made to face the appropriate sanction for the non-compliance. It is the only sensible and civilized way courts of competent jurisdiction can ensure compliance with their orders and court processes without giving parties, their lawyers and representatives the right to decide which orders to comply with and those to disrespect. See REPUBLIC v. NII ADAMAH- THOMPSON AND OTHERS; EX PARTE AHINAKWAH II (SUBSTITUTED

BY) AYIKAI [2012] 1 SCGLR 79.


[32] The 2nd Respondent herein is held liable even though he did not personally sign the letter of 29 February 2016. As the Chief Executive Officer of the Bank, he is the alter ego of the bank (company) and therefore may be held liable for the acts of commission or omissions of the company. The law is that any order or in this case willful act against a body corporate may be enforced against its directors or officers. See DEEPSEA DIVISION OF NATIONAL UNION OF SEAMEN AND OTHERS v. TRADES UNION CONGRESS OF GHANA AND OTEHRS [1982- 83] GLR 941. In bland terms as per  the  hackneyed  case  of  SALOMON  v. SALOMON  &  CO. LTD (1897) AC 22, the senior officers and controlling minds of the organization are the decision-makers of the organization who can be held liable in cases of criminality or quasi- criminality based on their contributions to impugned conduct. Else, the concept of incorporation becomes a mechanism for doing injustice and providing a shield for individual wrong-doing. In the instant case, the 2nd Respondent has filed an affidavit in opposition to the application to justify the act that this court has found to be willful. Based on the available evidence, there was an act of disobedience of the 1st Respondent on behalf of the Bank and he is therefore equally liable.


[33] I cannot conclude this decision without commenting on the arguments by the Respondents that the Plaintiffs in Suit No. IL/0017/2016 are the same as those in the pending suit and therefore, it was argued that their pending action constitutes an abuse of process. With the greatest respect to the Respondents and counsel, a party does not cease to be a party to a suit by “writing a letter of withdrawal.” The parties, if they were so minded, ought to have filed a notice of discontinuance for the court to consider and duly strike them out as parties. In the absence of that, they remain parties to the suit. Also, even if the issues in the two applications are the same, it is only a court of law that ought to make that determination but not the Respondents and/or their Counsel.


[34] Overall, I am satisfied that the guilt of the 1st and 2nd Respondents/Contemnors has been proved beyond reasonable doubt. It is important that the independence and authority of the courts within the Ghanaian democracy are asserted and safeguarded. Where the Court’s authority is subverted, there is a need for correction in the plainest of terms. I therefore uphold the submissions of learned Counsel for the Applicants. In the result, the  1st  and  2nd  Respondents/ Contemnors are held in contempt of the court. I shall, however, adjourn the sentence to June 6,

2016 for the Respondents/Contemnors to purge their contempt. Meantime, I admit them to self- recognize bail in the sum of Gh¢20,000 each.