Judiciary-Poetry-Logo
JPoetry

BEFORE CONVICTING ON UNCORROBORATED EVIDENCE, THE JUDGE MUST WARN HIMSELF FIRST

Dictum

In HABIBU MUSA VS THE STATE (2013) 8 NCC 464 this Court held that: “Generally, it is not a rule of law that an accused person in a charge of rape cannot be convicted on the uncorroborated evidence of the prosecution. It has however been clearly established in the rule of practice that the proper direction is that not being safe, the Court is expected to warn itself. After the due warning and the Court is satisfied with the truth of evidence of the prosecution the accused can be convicted without looking for any other corroboration.”

Was this dictum helpful?

SHARE ON

WHAT IS CORROBORATION

In Dagayya v. The State (2006) 7 NWLR (Pt 980) 637 held thus: “Corroboration entails the act of supporting or strengthening a statement of a witness by fresh evidence of another witness. Corroboration does not mean that the witness corroborating must use the exact or very like words, unless the matter involves some arithmetic”. PER TOBI J.S.C.

Was this dictum helpful?

IF THE WITNESS IS NOT AN ACCOMPLICE, COURT CAN CONVICT ON HIS SOLE TESTIMONY

More recently in Oteki v. Attorney-General of Bendel State (1986) 2 NWLR (Pt. 24) 648 at 664 this court laid it down as follows:- “I think the learned trial Judge applied the correct principles in determining whether or not to rely on the evidence of P.W.1 for the conviction of the appellant. It is now established that a court can convict upon the evidence of one witness without more, if the witness is not an accomplice in the commission of the offence, and his evidence is sufficiently probative of the offence with which the accused has been charged.” See too Sunday Emiator v. The State (1975) 9-11 SC 107 at 112; Anthony Igbo v. The State (1975)9-11 SC 129 at 134: Joshua Alonge v. inspector-General of Police (1959) SCNLR 516;(1959)4 FSC 203.

Was this dictum helpful?

PURPOSE OF CORROBORATIVE EVIDENCE

It therefore follows, in my view, to ask what is the purpose of corroborative evidence In D.P.P. v. Hester (1973) AC 296 at 315, Lord Morris said:- “The purpose of corroboration is not to give validity or credence to evidence which is deficient or suspect or incredible but only to confirm and support that which as evidence is sufficient and satisfactory and credible: and corroborative evidence will only fill its role if it itself is completely credible evidence.”

Was this dictum helpful?

WHEN DOES AN EVIDENCE CONSTITUTES CORROBORATION

“Corroboration” in my understanding simply means “confirming or giving support to” either a person, statement or faith. What then constitute corroboration in law In R. v. Baskerville (1916-17) All ER Reprint 38 at 43, Lord Reading CJ defined what evidence constitutes corroborative evidence for the purpose of the statutory and common law rules when he said:- “We hold that evidence in corroboration must be independent testimony which affects the accused by connecting or tending to connect him with the crime. In other words, it must be evidence which implicates him, that is, which confirms in some material particular not only the evidence that the crime has been committed but also that the prisoner committed it. The test applicable to determine the nature and extent of the corroboration is thus the same whether the case falls within the rule of practice at common law or within that class of offence for which corroboration is required by statute”.

— Kalgo, J.S.C. Okon Iko v State (2001) – SC.177/2001

Was this dictum helpful?

ADMISSION OF AN OFFENCE MAY AMOUNT TO SUFFICIENT CORROBORATION

Admission of an offence by an accused person to other persons may amount to sufficient corroboration in law. So in R. v. Francis Kufi (1960) WNLR 1, the accused was charged with indecent assault against a young girl of 10 years. It was held, and rightly in my view, that the admission of the offence by the accused to the father of the girl was sufficient corroboration in law.

— Iguh, JSC. Okon Iko v State (2001) – SC.177/2001

Was this dictum helpful?

CORROBORATION AND CLASSES OF CRIMINAL CASES

I now come to consider the class of criminal cases in which corroboration is required to prove the guilt of the accused. It is common ground that in all cases where the law provides that corroboration is necessary, a conviction of an accused can only be valid when there is such corroborative evidence. That is the case where statutory corroboration is required. But there are other cases in which though there is no statutory requirement for corroboration, yet as a matter of practice, corroboration though not essential, is almost always required before conviction. The latter is mostly in cases of evidence on oath. Any witness in any of these categories would conveniently be regarded as “suspect” witness and that is why the law requires that if any conviction is to be based on their evidence, the Judge must warn himself or the jury as the case may be, of the danger of convicting on the uncorroborated evidence of such witness. Lord Diplock in D.P.P. v. Hester (supra) explained the danger sought to be cleared by this rule when he said on P.244 of the report that:- ‘The danger sought to be obviated by the common law rule in each of these three categories of witnesses is that the story told by the witness may be inaccurate for reasons not applicable to other competent witnesses, whether the risk be of deliberate inaccuracy, as in the case of accomplices, or unintentional inaccuracy, as in the case of children and some complainants in cases of sexual offences. What is looked for under the common law rule is confirmation from some other source that the suspect witness is telling the truth in some part of his story which goes to show that the accused committed the offence with which he is charged.’

— Kalgo, J.S.C. Okon Iko v State (2001) – SC.177/2001

Was this dictum helpful?