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AMPONG v. ABORAA


  • New
  • 1960-02-29
  • HIGH COURT
  • GLR 29-31
  • Print

SMITH, J.


Summary

Defamation by slander?-Actionable in native law without proof of special damage?-Epithet "slave" constitutes slander in native law.

Headnotes

Plaintiff was a candidate for the Akropong Stool. The defendant applied to him the terms " slave and beast ", and the plaintiff instituted proceedings in the High Court, claiming 500 damages for slander. There was no proof of special damage, but before trial the plaintiff obtained leave to amend his statement of claim by adding the following paragraph: " The plaintiff maintains that by native law and custom the words published by the defendant constitute actionable slander." Order 19, Rule 31 of the Supreme Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 1954 provides as follows: - "In all cases in which the party pleading relies upon a native law or custom, the native law or custom relied upon shall be stated in the pleading with sufficient particulars to show the nature and effect of the native law or custom in question and the geographical area and the tribe or tribes to which it relates." For the defendant it was argued at the trial (a) that if the action was founded on English law it should be dismissed for lack of proof of special damage, and (b) that if the action was founded on native law and custom it should be dismissed because the case would then be at variance with the writ of summons.

Judgement

ACTION for slander.

This is an action for 500 damages for slander. The slanderous words which the plaintiff alleges that the defendant used were "slave and beast."

I have no hesitation in accepting the evidence of the plaintiff's witnesses that the defendant did in fact call the plaintiff by these names. That being so, the question is whether this action is one which should have been tried in the native court and not in the Supreme Court. Counsel for the defendant relied on the case of Kwaku v. Addo (2 W.A. L.R. 306). He argued that if the action was founded on English law it should be dismissed, because there was no proof of any special damage; alternatively, if it was founded on native law and custom then the case was at variance with the writ of summons. I would have agreed with this latter contention, but the plaintiff before trial sought and was given leave to amend his statement of claim by adding another paragraph as follows:-

"The plaintiff maintains that by native law and custom the words published by the defendant constitute actionable slander."

I think that this amendment satisfied Order 19, Rule 31 of the Supreme Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 1954, and I hold that it makes the case clearly one based on native law and custom. There is therefore no reason in law why this court should not entertain the suit. The next question is whether the epithet "slave" by itself constitutes slander according to native law and custom. I think that there is no doubt that it does, and being universally regarded as such it required no further specific pleading. In my opinion the plaintiff is entitled to succeed in this case.

The measure of damages is difficult. The plaintiff claims as much as 500 for the very reason, as Mr. Blay (his counsel) points out, that times have changed since Sarbah's days, when the punishment for slander was public ridicule and a small fine. It is obvious nowadays that the matter can only be dealt with by awarding the slandered person sufficient pecuniary compensation, the amount depending, of course, on the position of the individual concerned and the circumstances of the case. On the other hand, as time has passed, the word "slave" may have lost a lot of its provocative nature. I should think that nowadays the expression may quite well not carry its former odium and disgrace, and the plaintiff admitted that he would have accepted an apology in the form of customary pacification. The plaintiff alleges in paragraph 4 of his statement of claim that in "consequence of the said words, the plaintiff has been greatly [p.31] injured, and his candidature for the Akropong Stool has been jeopardised." I should say that some evidence is necessary to support that. If it were proved I would award higher damages than could be awarded in the native court. There is, however, no evidence as to the damage that the plaintiff has suffered, nor that his candidature for the Akropong Stool has been jeopardised.

In all the circumstances I award the plaintiff 50 damages.

Decision

<P>Judgment for the plaintiff. </P>

Plaintiff / Appellant

Blay

Defendant / Respondent

Gaisie

Referals

Kwaku v. Addo 2 W.A.L.R. 306.

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