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A CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS THE STRONGEST EVIDENCE AGAINST AN ACCUSED

Dictum

It is trite in law, that there is no evidence stronger than a person’s own admission or confession. The confessional statement made by an accused person is potent evidence in the hand of a prosecutor for proving a charge. It is the best and safest evidence on which to convict.

– M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)

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RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS ADMISSIBLE

My Lords, the position of the law as it stands today is that the signed retracted confessional statement Exh. 7A taken in vernacular is admissible in evidence. What matters is the probative value to be attached to it.

– H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. State v. Ibrahim (2021) – SC.200/2016

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CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT CAN GROUND THE CONVICTION OF AN ACCUSED

It is now axiomatic that a confessional statement can ground the conviction of an accused person provided that it is direct and positive. It is therefore no longer debatable that a man may be convicted on his confessional statement alone which is voluntary, free, positive, so long as the Court is satisfied of its truth. Such a confession would constitute proof of guilt of the maker and suffices as evidence upon which to ground or sustain his conviction.

– Abdu Aboki, JSC. Chukwu v. State (2021)

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RATIONALE FOR HAVING VIDEO RECORDING DURING RECORD OF CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT

Usually, objections raised as to the admissibility of confessional statements pose one of the greatest challenges to criminal trials as it slows down the pace of the proceedings when there is a trial within trial. It is for this reason that Section 9(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State 2011 and Section 17(2) and 15(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 have been put in place to ensure that the Police and other agencies who have the power to arrest, obtain confessional statements from suspects without any form of oppression or illegality. The effect of the said provision is that every confessional statement must be recorded on video so that the said recording can be tendered and played in Court as evidence to prove voluntariness or a legal practitioner or any person as specified under Section 17(2) of the ACJA must be present. The essence of the video/audio-visual evidence is obviously so that the Court will be able to decipher from the demeanor of the Defendant and all other surrounding circumstances in the video if he or she voluntarily made the confessional statement. Alternatively, where a video facility is not available, the Police must take the confessional statement in writing and must ensure that while same was being taken, the Defendant had a Legal Practitioner of his choice present. However, over the years, it seems to me that these provisions are only existent on paper as the Police and other security agencies seldom comply with them. The current state of technology where most mobile phones have a recording application that would state the time and place of making the video if there is no official Police photographer at hand, makes the non-compliance inexcusable. My Lords, it is baffling, to say the least, that at this point in our criminal justice system, there is still failure to meet with minimum standards of Police investigation or interrogation that obtains in other jurisdictions.

— H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. Friday Charles v. The State of Lagos (SC.CR/503/2020, Friday March 31 2023)

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RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT MUST MEET FOLLOWING TESTS

My Lords, the confessional statement of the Appellant was retracted by him in the course of the trial and the position of the law as reiterated by this Court in several cases is that the statement must meet the probability test set out in R. v. Sykes (1913) 18 CR All Pg. 233: a) Whether there is anything outside it to show the statement is true, b) Whether it is corroborated, c) Whether the statement made in it of fact so far as they can be tested are true, d) Whether the accused had the opportunity of committing the offence, e) Whether it is consistent with other facts which have been ascertained and have been proved.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Junaidu v. State (2021)

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FREE & VOLUNTARY CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT CAN GROUND CONVICTION

It is trite law that where a person makes a free and voluntary confessional statement which is direct and positive and is properly proved, a trial court can comfortably convict him even on such confessional statement alone, without necessarily looking for any corroborative evidence.

– Sanusi, JSC. Umaru Sunday v. FRN (2018) – SC.145/2013

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CONFESSION ALONE CAN GROUND CONVICTION

Furthermore, it is also the law that the confessional statement of an accused person alone is sufficient to ground a conviction. A confession alone, properly proved, is enough to ground a conviction, even without corroboration. Thus, an uncorroborated confessional statement of an accused person can be acted upon, without more. Nonetheless, it is advisable to look for some evidence outside the confessional statement which makes it probable that the confession is true.

– Sankey JCA. Abdul v. State (2021)

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