An accounts clerk (bursar) of a school in Accra who was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for allegedly defiling a 12-year-old pupil of the school and impregnating her in the process has been acquitted and discharged by the Court of Appeal.
Mr Charles Twumasi, 38, was set free after the three-member panel of the court unanimously held that there was no evidence that linked him to the said defilement and also that some of the evidence was deliberately distorted to aid his conviction.
“We, therefore, set aside the conviction by the trial circuit court, as affirmed by the High Court, on the grounds that the conviction was unreasonable and, furthermore, it is not supported, having regard to evidence on record.
“The appellant (Twumasi) is hereby acquitted and discharged and should be released from prison forthwith,” the Court of Appeal ordered.
Twumasi was accused of defiling the 12-year-old girl in September 2012 when she went to pay her feeding fee at the school’s accounts office.
He was on remand and in prison for seven years until he was discharged and acquitted on February 13, this year in a judgment read by Mr Justice Dennis Adjei, who presided over the Court of Appeal panel, with Justices Cecelia Sowah and Amadu Tanko as members.
Twumasi’s lawyer, who argued for his acquittal, is Mr Saani Mahmoud Abdul–Rasheed of the Legal Aid Scheme, while the state was represented by Ms Sefako Batse, a Principal State Attorney.
In its judgment upholding Twumasi’s appeal, the Court of Appeal was of the determination that there was no evidence on record which showed that the alleged defilement by Twumasi in September 2012 actually happened.
Rather, it said, the evidence on record rather proved that the victim was defiled in June 2012, a crime which was allegedly committed by a teacher of the school, known as Nash.
According to the court, there was medical evidence, by way of the victim’s pregnancy, to prove that the defilement took place in June 2012, allegedly by Nash, but “there is no direct evidence, such as medical evidence, to prove that the victim was defiled in September 2012”.
Again, it held that the investigator of the case never testified that the victim was defiled in September 2012, while the headmistress of the school also testified that she remembered the girl’s mother went to the school to complain about Nash defiling her daughter.
“We hereby find and hold that there is no scintilla of evidence to prove that the appellant (Twumasi) defiled PW2 (victim). Furthermore, there is no evidence to prove that PW2 (victim) was defiled in September 2012,” the court held.
On November 8, 2012, the state initiated criminal proceedings at the Accra Circuit Court against Nash and Twumasi for allegedly defiling the 12-year-old girl.
Nash absconded and never appeared before the court to answer the charges levelled against him.
Twumasi, who appeared before the court, pleaded not guilty and denied ever defiling the girl.
Per the facts, as presented by the prosecution, in June 2012, the girl went to use the school’s urinal, and on her way to her classroom, Nash spotted her and instructed her to go and clean the teachers’ washroom.
According to the prosecution, as soon as the girl entered the teachers’ washroom, Nash too went there, locked the door and had sex with her.
He allegedly warned the girl not to disclose what he had done to her to anybody, else she would not see her mother again.
The prosecution added that in September 2012, the girl went to the accounts office to pay her feeding fee, where she met Twumasi, who sat her on his laps and had sex with her.
The facts added that the girl’s sister noticed changes in the girl’s body and reported it to their mother, who took the girl to a clinic on November 1, 2012, where a test conducted on her revealed that she was five months pregnant.
Conviction and sentence
At the close of the trial in 2014, the circuit court upheld the prosecution’s case and sentenced Twumasi to 10 years in prison in hard labour.
Dissatisfied with his conviction and sentence, Twumasi appealed against his conviction at the Accra High Court on April 3, 2014.
However, on May 17, 2017, the High Court dismissed Twumasi’s appeal and rather increased his sentence from 10 to 15 years.
Twumasi continued to protest his conviction and filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal on November 13, 2017.
The appeal was on three grounds — the trial circuit court judge erred in convicting and sentencing him, the appellate court (High Court) erred in enhancing his sentence and the sentence was excessive and harsh.
In upholding the appeal, the Court of Appeal also made a determination that there were inconsistencies in the testimonies of the victim, her mother and the headmistress during the trial concerning when Twumasi was mentioned as a suspect.
The court said the victim testified that she told her father, in the presence of her mother, that Nash and Twumasi had defiled her on different occasions. That was after she had tested positive for pregnancy.
However, the court held that the mother testified that the girl initially informed her (mother) and the father that it was only Nash who had defiled her.
The mother further testified that after the confession by the victim, she (mother) took her to the headmistress of the school to report Nash’s conduct and that the headmistress interrogated the victim alone in a room.
According to the mother, the headmistress informed her (mother), after the interrogation, that the victim had informed her (headmistress) that apart from Nash, Twumasi also defiled her (victim).
With regard to the headmistress, the court held that she testified that after she had interrogated the victim, she (headmistress) went to eat, while the girl’s mother was still impressing on the victim to tell the truth.
The court added that the headmistress further testified that when she returned after eating, the mother told her that the victim had informed her (mother) that Twumasi also defiled her (victim).
“We hold that the inconsistencies are colourful and the doubt should have been resolved in favour of the appellant (Twumasi),” it held.
Another crucial claim made by the Court of Appeal was the deliberate attempt to distort Twumasi’s evidence.
The court said a cursory look at the record of appeal, which was carried from the circuit court to the High Court, showed that at some point during cross-examination Twumasi admitted the offence.
According to the court, it demanded the record book but realised that the trial judge did not write the questions which were asked at the trial in her record book but rather used a cassette to record the questions and answers.
It added that it demanded the cassette and the machine that was used for the recording, but it was told the two items got crushed.
The court held that throughout the trial, the accused denied all the facts, as presented by the prosecution, except his name and his place of work.
It was, therefore, the position of the Court of Appeal that the said admission could not be true, and that it was the typist at the circuit court who inserted that misleading evidence into the records of appeal.
“How could a person who denied everything have admitted having defiled PW2 (victim)? Why is it that the trial circuit court judge did not address the alleged admission of offence by the appellant and make findings on it?
“We find the conduct of the typist irresponsible and should be condemned,” the court held.