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CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS THE BEST EVIDENCE

Dictum

Confessional statement is the best evidence to ground conviction and, as held in a number of cases, it can be relied upon solely where voluntary. The criminal guilt of an accused person could be established by confessional statement, circumstantial evidence and evidence of an eye witness. A confessional statement of the Appellant that was free and voluntary led to the crystallisation of the procedure stipulated under Section 156 and 157 of the CPC, which 17 were duly applied as held above. A confessional statement does not become inadmissible even if the accused person denied having made it. This has been the settled position in our jurisprudence of criminal justice.

— S.D. Bagel, JSC. Mohammed v. COP (2017) – SC.625/2014

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ADMISSIBILITY OF A CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT

Olalekan v. State (2001) LPELR-2561(SC) 4, 50-51, F-A, where Onu, J.S.C. held as follows: “This Court has held times without number that the statement of an accused is not inadmissible merely because it is taken down in a different language from the language of the person making it. See Queen v. Baba Haske (1961) 1 All NLR 330 at 333.” (Emphasis supplied).

At page 37, A-C of the same Report, Karibi-Whyte, J.S.C. also stated as follows: “The general proposition is well settled that where an interpreter has been used in the recording of a statement, the statement is inadmissible unless the person who interpreted it is called as a witness as well as the person who wrote it down.”

Again, at pages 55-57 of the same Report, Uwaifo, J.S.C. made his findings in extension as follows: “I have read the reasons given by my learned brother Ogundare, J.S.C. for dismissing this appeal on 20 September, 2001. I wish however, to express my views briefly on whether Exhibit A was properly admitted at the trial. Sgt Linus Patricks (PW6) was the officer who recorded the statement of the appellant. The appellant spoke in Yoruba language and PW6, acting through an interpreter, Aremu Adeosun (PE3), recorded the statement in English language. That was how Exhibit A, the said statement, came into existence. Now, PW3 testified that he interpreted between PW6 and the Appellant. Thereafter, he read the statement as written in English language by interpreting it to the Appellant who agreed that it was correctly recorded. He said the Appellant thumb-printed Exhibit A and he, the interpreter, signed it, as did PW6, the recorder of the statement… At the trial Court, no objection was taken to the voluntariness of the statement, or any other objection at all… The objection now taken in this Court is that the statement (Exhibit A) is hearsay evidence… With the greatest respect, what I understand the authorities in this country to establish is that where an interpreter has been used in taking down a statement, both the person who wrote down the statement and the person who interpreted it must be called as witnesses. In the case of the person who recorded the statement, he would, of course, state in evidence the procedure he took in the process. That was done in the present case. As for the person who interpreted, he would need to be presented as a witness to testify that he interpreted. It is then open to the defence to cross-examine them… I am therefore satisfied that the prosecution called the necessary witnesses who gave sufficient evidence in the present case to make Exhibit A admissible… The objection that it was hearsay is not well founded and I overrule it.”

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THE EFFECT OF A CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT

A confessional statement which is voluntarily made is an admission by the maker that he committed the offence. it is the best evidence in support of the case of the prosecution against an accused person. however, such evidence, apart from being voluntarily made, must be positive, direct, pungent and consistent with other facts as proved in the case.

– Adamu Jauro, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)

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TRIAL-WITHIN-TRIAL IS TO TEST VOLUNTARINESS OF CONFESSIONAL STATEMENTS ONLY

I agree with the learned counsel for the Respondent that the Appellant’s counsel had really misunderstood the fundamental requirement in criminal trial. A trial within trial is required in law where the objection to admissibility of a statement is based on the ground that it was not made voluntarily. In that case there has to be a trial within trial to determine the question of voluntariness. It is only where this is proved by the prosecution that the statement is admitted in evidence.

– Galadima, JSC. Kingsley v. State (2016)

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TEST TO PROVE CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT

The tests for determining the voluntariness of a confessional statement have been consistently applied by this Court in a plethora of cases as follows: (1) Whether there is anything outside the confession to show that it is true. (2) Whether the statement is corroborated, no matter how slight (3) Whether the facts contained therein, so far as can be tested, are true. (4) Whether the accused person had the opportunity of committing the offence. (5) Whether the confession of the accused person was possible. (6) Whether the confession was consistent with other facts which have been ascertained and proved in the matter.

– J.I. Okoro JSC. Berende v. FRN (2021)

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CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS THE BEST EVIDENCE IN NIGERIA CRIMINAL LAW

I entirely agree with the contention of the Respondent’s counsel that the nature of the corroborative evidence required does not need to be direct evidence linking the Defendant to the commission of the offence. Circumstantial evidence is sufficient, particularly where it leads to no other conclusion than the guilt of the Defendant. I agree with the Respondent’s counsel that a confessional statement is the best evidence in Nigerian criminal jurisprudence as it is direct evidence by the perpetrator giving the reasons for and how the offence was committed. So long as it is voluntary and it is a direct and positive admission of guilt, it can be used to convict even where it has been retracted.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Junaidu 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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