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CONVICTION CAN BE FOUNDED ON RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT

Dictum

The law is trite that a conviction can be found on a retracted confessional statement of an accused person once it is voluntary, positive and true. Where an accused person objects to the tendering of his confessional statement on the ground that he did not make it, the confession will be admitted and the question as to whether he made it or not will be decided at the end of the trial, since the issue of its voluntariness does not arise for consideration. See: Dibia v. State (2017) LPELR 48453 SC.

— Abdu Aboki, JSC. Abdulrahim Usman v. The State (SC.61C/2019, Friday May 06, 2022)

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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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CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS THE BEST EVIDENCE

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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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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CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT BECOMES PROOF

Be it noted that a confessional statement becomes proof of an act when it is true, positive and direct. – Onu JSC. Peter v. State (1997)

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SIX TESTS CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT MUST PASS IF RETRACTED

Where a confessional statement is retracted as in this case, the Court then shall decide the weight it would attach to the confessional statement. The best way to go about it is by subjecting the confession to the underlisted six tests, namely: (a) Is there anything outside the confession to show that it is true? (b) Is the confessional statement corroborated (c) Are the statements made in it of facts and so far as we can test them, true? (d) Is the accused person a person who had the opportunity of committing the offence (e) Is his confession possible? (f) Is it consistent with other facts which have been ascertained and which have been proved at the trial See Kareem v FRN (2003) 16 WRN 114; Kolawole v State (2015) EJSC (Vol.3) 41; Dibie v State (2007) 1 ALL FWLR (pt.363) 83; Ejinima v State (1991) 5 LRCN 1640; Bature v State (1994)1 NWLR (pt.320) 267.

— Amiru Sanusi, JSC. Ogunleye Tobi v The State (2019) – SC.714/2017

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RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT MUST PASS THESE TESTS

In other words, the retracted confession must pass the six credibility tests forming part of our criminal jurisprudence which have been established in a long fine of cases referred to above. These are: i. Is there anything outside the confession to show that it is true? ii. Is it corroborated? iii. Are the relevant statements made in it of facts true as far as they can be tested? iv. Was the accused one who had the opportunity of committing murder? v. Is his confession possible? vi. Is it consistent with other facts which have been ascertained and have been proved?

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

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