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The Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council (GLC) has initiated proceedings on a petition against Josephine Hughes, daughter of former Speaker of Parliament Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes.

The petition, lodged by lawyer Charles Zwennes, contends that Hughes is not a properly qualified lawyer.

Chaired by Supreme Court Judge, Paul Kwadwo Baffoe-Bonnie, the committee includes members; Avril Johnson, Sam Okudzeto, Tony Forson, and Franklina.

The inquiry focuses on allegations that Ms Hughes gained admission to the Ghana School of Law’s Post Call Course without meeting the necessary qualifications. This course is typically reserved for already-qualified Barristers and Solicitors from the UK.

Zwennes asserts there is no evidence that Ms Hughes sat and passed the Bar Exam or the Solicitors Law Practice Course (LPC) in the UK before returning to Ghana and being called to the Bar through the Ghana School of Law.

Additionally, her name does not appear on the Roll of Barristers or Solicitors in the UK. In her response, Ms Hughes did not confirm passing the LPC, a prerequisite for being listed on the Roll of Solicitors, thereby intensifying Zwennes’ determination to prove his case.

During the June 19, 2024 hearing at the Ghana Law School, Justice Baffoe-Bonnie questioned the committee’s jurisdiction if Ms Hughes is not a qualified lawyer. Zwennes countered, highlighting the GLC’s statutory mandate to regulate the legal profession.

Justice Baffoe-Bonnie posited that Ms Hughes might have completed the solicitors’ course but was not certified, allowing her to enroll in the post-call course in Ghana.

However, Zwennes argued that only those who have passed the UK exam for solicitors but did not complete Articled Training are eligible for the Post Call Course in Ghana, excluding those who failed the exam.

Throughout the hearing, Ms Hughes remained silent as Justice Baffoe-Bonnie and Zwennes debated her qualifications. Ms Hughes admitted to not taking the Bar exam but claimed to have completed the solicitors’ course. She was not asked if she passed the LPC exam.

The hearing concluded with Zwennes promising to obtain evidence proving Ms Hughes did not pass the LPC exam. The matter was adjourned to November 21, 2024.

Zwennes, accompanied by his cousin Peter Zwennes, emphasized that all solicitors in the UK who pass the LPC exam are registered on the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) website and receive an SRA Number. A search on the SRA website did not show Ms Hughes’ name, indicating she has not passed the LPC exam to become a solicitor in England and Wales.

Justice Baffoe-Bonnie’s distinction between “being Called” and “passing the test for being Called, but not being Called” has sparked concerns about the GLC’s effectiveness in maintaining the legal profession’s integrity in Ghana. Zwennes’ petition echoes sentiments advocating stringent measures to prevent unqualified individuals from practicing law in the country.

This petition follows a legal battle between the ex-Speaker and the Zwennes cousins over the ownership of the 66-year-old law firm, Gaisie Zwennes Hughes & Co.

In December last year, an Accra High Court case saw Zwennes dismissing an application filed by Sekyi Hughes as an abuse of process. Zwennes argued that only the ex-Speaker and his daughters, Antoinette and Josephine, could benefit from alleged acts of forgery and fraud, including a false claim of being a qualified lawyer trained both in the UK and Ghana.

former Speaker of Parliament Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes

As the lawsuit progresses, both parties are set to present their evidence, with Zwennes asserting that their legal action is grounded in the tort of misrepresentation. The case raises serious allegations of fraud and collusion, which Zwennes claims will be demonstrated through evidence of document suppression and falsification of public records.

The court is now awaiting directions to set down the issues for trial, with Hughes having filed an appeal against an adverse ruling made against him by the High Court, which found that the plaintiffs’ case has merit.

Sekyi Hughes argues that the annual renewal filings with the Registrar General’s Department never listed the Zwennes cousins as partners, while Zwennes contends there is substantial evidence proving their appointment as partners from 2002 until CBK Zwennes’s death.

The legal battle, involving allegations of forgery and fraudulent misrepresentation against Sekyi Hughes, continues as both parties prepare to present their cases in court.

By Daakyehene Nana Yaw Asante