Teacher wrongfully convicted for defilement wants justice system improved

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Maxwell Bernieh

Maxwell Bernieh, a Ghanaian teacher who has recently been acquitted after he was wrongly convicted for defilement in 2016 has urged the judicial system in the country to work diligently in discharging its duties. Mr. Bernieh was acquitted by an Accra High Court after he spent 6 years out of 20 years in prison. He was arrested and accused of defiling an 11 year-old student in one of the Junior High Schools in the Greater Accra Region. For him, there is a chunk of wrongfully convicted innocent persons in prison.

“The judicial system must treat everybody equally. You don’t just hand people sentences without evidence that that person is indeed guilty. I think the justice system should work. Institutions should work in this country,” he said.

Maxwell said he had to look up to the heavens because if he let a fraction of his sorrow out while in prison, a never-ending torrent of grief would follow. Out of the 20 years sentence handed him, he spent 6 years at Nsawam prisons before he was found innocent. His sentence came a day after he turned 42 years.

In an interview with a local Ghanaian newspaper, The City, Mr. Bernieh said that all he had to do in prison from sun up to sun down was to sit with his forehead against the wall praying for God’s intervention. But he is now a freeman. He was released months ago. He laments stigmatization as a major cause of worry for him since his release. He however urged the judicial system to be very thoughtful in handling sentences to persons brought before the court. 

Meanwhile, his lawyer, Martin Kpebu says efforts have been put in place for him to be duly compensated by the state for wrongful conviction. “By law, if a person is unjustifiably imprisoned, that person is entitled to compensation. So, it is the court that determines it. So we are currently in the process of applying, so the court will certify that yes this person merits some compensation. Then the Supreme Court will look into it and grant some compensation.” 

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