A Circuit Court in Sunyani presided by Justice Sylvester Nii Okai Ablorh, has sentenced a man and his son to five years imprisonment for engaging in child trafficking.
They exploited the children to do fishing on the Volta Lake, and their sentences would run concurrently.
According to a statement issued by the International Justice Mission-Ghana (IJM) and signed by Mr Forster Kojo Worlanyo, the National Director, of Advocacy and Partnership “after a 44-month trial, the court found the convicts guilty of one count of Human Trafficking contrary to Section 2(1) and (2) of the Human Trafficking Act 2005, Act 784, and they were sentenced accordingly”.
A copy of the statement made available to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Sunyani explained trial started in February 2019 at the Duayaw-Nkwanta Circuit Court where both convicts were granted bail.
It said, “the case then moved to the Sunyani Circuit Court in April 2019, and prosecuted by State Attorneys in Sunyani, with support from IJM and the convicts were also found guilty for another count of engagement of children in exploitative labour contrary to section 87 of the Children’s Act, 1998, Act 560”.
The statement explained the six survivors of the child-trafficking crime were three sets of siblings, saying Forkinya exploited four of them including two of his step-grandchildren.
“The others, a boy and a girl had no relation to him and were trafficked by their own father to this boat master”, the statement explained, indicating that the “third set of two siblings that worked with Theophilus were his half-brothers”.
It explained the convicts had recruited the children from their families, and engaged them in fishing activities that were hazardous to their health, adding “the children were also not in school and had no medical attention to aid their well-being and development”.
In a rescue operation conducted on January 31, 2019, the Police and the Department of Social Welfare personnel with IJM’s assistance rescued the six survivors and arrested the two boat masters at Yeji Abenwaa.
The statement explained the trial was delayed because the convicts jumped bail, but a bench warrant was issued and they were rearrested in March 2020.
“When they reappeared before the court in January 2021, the convicts prayed the court of ill-health and inability to understand the Twi language, as they spoke only Dangbe”, it stated, saying in addition to their request for a lawyer, the case was adjourned till February 9, 2021.
“From that time, the accused persons never appeared in court again and the State Attorneys put in an application to try the case in absentia of the convicts which was granted”, it added.
“Also, after 11 months of disappearing, the Police with the support of IJM rearrested the convicts on December 22, 2021, which set the case rolling”, the statement indicated.
It explained because the survivors had to travel nine hours to court for each court trip, many of them suffered motion sickness, and all had to miss school for many days as a result.
So, the State Attorneys applied for a virtual hearing which was granted, it explained, saying “this helped the children by lessening their trauma, but it didn’t hasten the progress of the case”.
Thus, a block trial was applied for and granted where the court dedicated successive days to hearing the case exclusively and therefore sentenced them on October 2, 2022.
IJM is a global organisation that protects people in poverty from violence and in Ghana partners and supports authorities to combat human trafficking by equipping institutions and law enforcement agencies to investigate and respond to cases of trafficking.