A father accused of raping and impregnating his own daughter multiple times now walks free due to the police failing to conduct “conclusive investigations”. Pulse Ghana reporters Betty Kankam-Boadu and Stacey Knott investigate what went wrong.
Pulse Ghana has been following the case of Efua (name changed to protect her identity) since February of this year. On August 4, at the Ofaakor circuit court near Kasoa, the girl’s case was thrown out by Judge Mercy Adei Kotei who blamed the police for not conducting “conclusive investigations”.
Police had charged the man with incest.
Court records obtained by Pulse Ghana show that on August 4 the Police Prosecutor Detective Inspector Abdulai Mohammed had asked for an adjournment, stating police were waiting on advice from the Attorney General's (AG) department.
Prior to this, over the last two court cases, the police were told they needed to hurry the case along by Judge Adei Kotei, or risk seeing it thrown out. Since it first entered the court on February 19, 2016 it has seen seven adjournments “at the insistence of the prosecution,” Judge Adei Kotei said, according to the August 4 court proceedings seen by Pulse Ghana.
She said she was given the “same excuse” that the prosecution was waiting on the Attorney General's department.
“It appears to me that this case was rushed to court without the police having done any conclusive investigations,” Judge Adei Kotei said.
She went on to say she was striking the charge and discharging the man to discourage the practice of the courts being choked.
In previous interviews with Pulse Ghana, the police said the case was “complex” and they needed advice from the AG.
Allegations of rape
In an interview in May with Pulse Ghana senior reporters Stacey Knott and Betty Kankam-Boadu, Efua said her father had repeatedly raped her since the age of five, while she was in his care. She claims she has undergone three abortions, two of them performed by her father.
Efua, now 20, has two younger sisters who she claims are also being abused by their father, though both of them have denied these claims.
Efua believes this is because they are scared to speak out. She told Pulse Ghana her father had threatened to kill her if she was to ever speak about what had allegedly happened to her.
“We have stayed with him for long and we know the consequences. They are afraid,” she said.
“It wasn't easy for me to come out and say it and they also know if they side with me he is going to get angry with them and definitely they are also staying in the same house with him, he is also going to continue to beat them. They have to find a way of denying and protecting themselves from more beatings,” she said of her claims.
Efua was staying at her school hostel when she was encouraged to speak out. In early February 2016 her father came to the hostel looking to remove her and bring her home. He was reportedly angry and destroyed property when she refused to leave.
She later disclosed to the administrators of her school, for the first time, her history of alleged abuse.
The school supported her to file a complaint with the police and her father was arrested and charged with incest.
Police told Pulse Ghana the choice of the incest charge instead of rape or defilement was what was likely to stand up in court.
Her sole refuge at this time was her school, who have stuck with her throughout the entire process. They feel the Police did not do their best in trying the case before the court.
Since April 14, the Police repeatedly told the court they were waiting on advice from the Attorney General's office on how to proceed with the case - a situation that was met with several warnings from the presiding judge.
Pulse Ghana checks however revealed that the Cape Coast Attorney General’s office only received the docket on July 19.
In a letter of advice over the case, dated August 5 and sighted by Pulse Ghana, the AG’s office said they were only made aware of the case by the victim’s school on July 5, and received the docket on July 19. In the letter, they advised additional charges be laid, and a new prosecutor appointed, facts that did not appear to be made available to the court during the entire proceeding.
Pulse Ghana has repeatedly sought comment from police on this case.
As at August 23, when Pulse Ghana checked with the Breku District Police Commander, ASP Samuel Amfo, the response was that the division had still not received the advice from the office of the Attorney General.
A ‘huge injustice’
The project manager of Efua’s school, Tom Cronin was in court the day the case was thrown out and he still stands by the testimony of Efua.
“I feel cheated and devastated for Efua. She seems to be dealing with it quite well.”
Cronin said it felt like a “huge injustice” for it to be thrown out, and is deeply disappointed and frustrated with the police prosecution.
School welfare officers Leena Saarinen and Famous Agboka have also been highly involved in the case. Both say there was no reason not to believe Efua's claims especially after noting she is missing a front tooth, and seeing scars and bruises on her, which she says were from beatings.
Victims need more support
Human rights lawyer Irene Aborchie-Nyah has been following the case and had advised both the police and the school on how to proceed. She was “devastated” to hear the case had been thrown out.
“These things hardly come out, to speak to the public about these issues, so when you find a child who is willing and ready to come and speak about defilement and incest at the same time, I think a thorough judgment should be done. Because if the case goes on trial and the prosecution is unable to prove it, that is better than the case being thrown out.”
Who Will Hear My Cry sexual abuse victim advocate Dilys Sillah has also been following the case.
She believed it showed police were cherry picking victims and cherry picking perpetrators.
More needed to be done to protect vulnerable children.
“Police have an obligation, not choice or preference to investigate crime," she told Pulse Ghana.
"Our government must set a standard that is inflexible in its enforcement of application in ensuring our police force uphold the law.”
Efua continues to be supported by the school and Cronin said they would be pushing to get the police to start a new case, “to continue to fight to get a trial at least”.
Pulse Ghana is continuing its investigations into this case.