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Entertainment & the Law: It’s About Time

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

Obviously, there’s new wind blowing and almost everybody is feeling it. The newly-appointed Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Ghana Police are on a mission – to crack the whip.

In a spate of a month, several arrests from the traditionalists to clergy to the entertainment industry have brought some attention to the law and stakeholders within all these industries and more are taking notice.

The fact is; people have been breaching the law for a longtime and arrests have been effected as well but the IGP, the sort of arrests and accompanying charges are making everybody sit up!

The Law Works

Rapper, Kwaw Kese in his last interview on Hitz FM said he now respects the law after facing remand and a short stint in jail. According to him, his experience in prison has taught him one of the greatest lessons in life.

“In all, it’s the law. When the law catches you, there’s nothing you can do about it. I really respect the law. I am somebody the law has dealt with before, so, there is no way I will disrespect the law.”

“I wouldn’t wish anyone to be jailed in Ghana. Freedom is very expensive in Ghana,” he said.

Kwaw Kese was tried for narcotic offences and was sentenced to a day’s imprisonment and fine of GHc1, 200 in 2015 after spending several weeks on remand.

A week after being granted bail for publication of false information, Shatta Wale cautioned ‘ghetto youth’ to be law-abiding. In a tweet, he stated, “Too many young boys deh remand ooo…Be careful Ghetto youth! The Law is real #JailMan.”

Ignorance of the Law Not an Excuse

There’s an important legal principle that says “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” That’s right: you can’t defend your actions by arguing you didn’t know they were illegal, even if you honestly did not realize you were breaking the law.

You are not permitted to plead ignorance as a defense to escape the rigors of law. If it is so, then it is very easy for any person to put forward ignorance as a defense though he/she was actually aware of the law and its full consequences. The law enforcement machinery shall come to a grinding halt if ignorance is accepted as a defense. Being a negative fact, court cannot insist on proof also.

It requires the study of the mental position of the law breaker which is a real difficult exercise. For all these reasons the policy of law has always been to reject the plea of ignorance of law.

Critical Meetings

In the heat of various arrests effected recently, the IGP and the Police Service have been having stakeholder engagements with various industries on merits of the laws that govern the citizenry.

Last month, the IGP, George Akuffo Dampare and some senior Police Officers met with leaders of faith-based organisation in Accra. The dialogue dubbed, “Religion and the Law” was held behind closed doors. Two distinguished Ghanaian lawyers, Ace Ankomah and Samson Ayenini took the religious groups through what the law and religion say about their activities. According to a communique by the Ghana Police Service, the meeting was to enable the IGP brief them on the legal implications of some of their actions.

Last week, the IGP also met with editors and senior journalists to discuss issues of national development. The meeting, the first with such a grouping since he took office, afforded him and the senior media practitioners the space to share views on critical issues, including police-media relations and how such relationship could impact on the peace and security of the nation.

At the time of going to press, key stakeholders, journalists and bloggers are meeting the IGP and senior Police Officers on matters relating to entertainment and the law.

Knowing the Law

Under our legal system, Ghanaians are expected to know what the law says. But this doesn’t mean we all have to be legal experts. It’s not realistic for everyone to memorize all the laws! Not even lawyers know all this information.

The rule “ignorance of the law is no excuse” really means that people can’t defend their actions by claiming they didn’t know the law.

It would be too easy for people to break a contract, ignore a neighbour’s right to privacy or sell drugs if they could get away with it by arguing they didn’t know it was against the law.

Proceedings within the Entertainment industry are most likely to have some implications when it comes to the law; activities shrouded in publicity stunts, concerts, video and photo shoots etc. – therefore, it is crucial folks within the industry to have some inkling on what the law says and be wary of activities that are most likely to be infringements.

Get Legal Counsel

The maxim “ignorance of law is not an excuse” is sometimes thought to be equivalent to the statement, “Every person is presumed to be aware of the law”. But on a closer analysis, it can be seen that both statements are not one and the same.

There is absolutely no justification for the presumption that everybody is aware of all the laws in operation. It is a ridiculous presumption if not an arbitrary one. If everybody knows the law, then what is the necessity for the courts? If everybody knows the law then there is no need for consulting an advocate or a solicitor.

This is the reason it is imperative for entertainers/celebrities to always have legal counsel, same way they should have Financial Advisors. The entertainers are supposed to rely on their respective lawyers to offer guidance on the law whenever when want to engage in any activity or project – and not wait when they are accosted, arrested and arraigned for court before they look out for lawyers.

 

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