A Ghanaian teacher who was wrongfully imprisoned for defilement he did not commit has been released after serving six out of twenty years.
This comes after a successful appeal against a previous court decision that convicted and sentenced Maxwell Bernieh in 2016.
The innocent teacher told Connect FM after his release that his problems began in 2015 when he was hired as a teacher in one of the Junior High Schools in the Greater Accra Region.
“I was excited to have secured the job because I had been unemployed for some time. I was supervising an examination just one month after starting at the school when some officers came to arrest me for no apparent reason. When I arrived at the police station, I was accused of defiling a student I had never met.
“I looked into the girl’s eyes, and I had never met her before because she was not in my class. “I still didn’t understand what was going on, and the case eventually went to court,” 3news.com reports.
Following a lengthy trial that was repeatedly adjourned, Bernieh, who had pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against him, was found guilty by the first court.
“Every time the case is called, the girl in question does not appear, and I am told she is undergoing surgery. I still had no idea what I had done to the girl to force her to have surgery.
“After about seven months of trial, I was sentenced to 20 years in July 2016. I told the judge that I was innocent, but she ignored me. She simply instructed me to file an appeal. “I was transferred to Nsawam,” Bernieh recalled.
Martin Kpebu, a private legal practitioner, heard about his plight and assisted in appealing the court’s decision.
The appeal hearing lasted many months, and at the end, the judge overturned Bernieh’s conviction and sentence.
Your ladyship The appeal hearing was presided over by Justice Mary M.E Nsenkyere (Mrs), who ruled that the prosecution failed to prove Bernieh’s guilt sufficiently as required by law.
“The prosecution, therefore, failed to lead evidence to show that it was the accused person who defiled the victim. Given that the prosecution failed to prove that the accused person had sexual intercourse with the victim, the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“This ground of appeal is successful. With such a failure to establish the essential elements of the offence, it follows that the offence charged against the appellant was not established beyond a reasonable doubt, and he should not have been convicted.
“As a result, the appeal is successful, and the decision is upheld. I hereby vacate the appellant’s conviction and, ultimately, the sentence imposed. “As a result, the appellant is acquitted and discharged,” Justice Nsenkyere ruled, according to 3news.com.gh.
It remains to be seen whether the innocent teacher will be compensated in any way for the damage to his reputation, the inconvenience of spending six years of his life in prison, and so on.
Bernieh is just one of many less fortunate Ghanaians incarcerated in various prisons across the country for crimes they did not commit. Some of them did not have the financial resources to hire a lawyer to defend them.
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