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EXPLANATION OF PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

Dictum

Lord Denning explained proof beyond reasonable doubt in Miller v Minister of Pensions (1947) 2 ALL ER p.372 and this explanation was adopted by this Court in Lori & Anor v State (1979-1981) 12 NSC p.269 and in innumerable decisions of this Court. His Lordship said: “Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond the shadow of doubt. The law would fail to protect the community if it admitted of fanciful possibilities to deflect the course of justice. If the evidence is so strong against a man as to leave only a remote possibility in his favour which can be dismissed with the sentence of course it is possible but not in the least probable the case is proved beyond reasonable doubt but nothing short of that will suffice.”

– Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Nwankwoala v FRN (2018) – SC.783/2015

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PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT DEPENDS ON THE QUALITY OF WITNESSES

It is a settled principle of law that in criminal proceedings the prosecution must establish the guilt of the accused person beyond reasonable doubt. It is also well settled that proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond the shadow of a doubt or beyond any iota of doubt. If the prosecution has led evidence that is cogent, credible and compelling, which points irresistibly to the guilt of the accused, it would have discharged the burden. Proof beyond reasonable doubt depends not on the quantity of witnesses for the prosecution but upon the quality of the evidence given.

— K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun, JSC. State v Sani Ibrahim (2019) – SC.1097/2016

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WHEN A CASE IS SAID TO BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

It must however, be emphasized that the burden of proof of the guilt of an accused person beyond reasonable doubt by the Prosecution in criminal cases should not be taken to mean that the prosecution must sustain its case beyond every shadow of doubt. Absolute certainty is impossible in any human adventure including the administration of justice. Thus, once the Prosecution has been able to prove that an offence has been committed and that no person other than the accused committed the offence, the prosecution is said to have established its case beyond reasonable doubt.

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

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AN OFFENCE MUST BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

A fortiori, by virtue of Section 138(1) of the Evidence Act, if the commission of an offence by a party is directly in issue in any criminal or civil proceeding, it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

– Saulawa, JSC. Makanjuola v. State (2021)

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WHAT REASONABLE DOUBT MEANS IN CRIMINAL TRIAL

The term “Reasonable doubt” has not been defined in the definitions Section 2 of the Act, but its connotation has received many definitions from judicial authorities. For instance, the very famous and erudite Denning, J (later M.R.) in the case of MILLER V. MINISTER OF PENSIONS (1947) 2 ALL E.R. 372 said that- “It need not reach certainly, but it must carry a high degree of probability. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond the shadow of a doubt.” The term is therefore of common law origin and was incorporated in our law of evidence.
In the case of BAKARE V. STATE (1987) 579 @ 587, our own version of Denning, J and equally erudite and eloquent OPUTA, JSC put the requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt thus:- “Proof beyond reasonable doubt stems out of the competing presumption of innocence inherent in our adversary system of criminal justice. To displace the presumption, the evidence of the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt, not beyond the shadow of doubt that the person accused is guilty of the offence charged. Absolute certainty is impossible in any human adventure including administration of criminal justice. Proof beyond reasonable doubt means what it says. It does not admit of plausible and fanciful possibilities but it does admit of a high degree of cogency consistent with an equally high degree of probabilities.”

– M.L. Garba JCA. Odogwu v. Vivian (2009) – CA/PH/345/05

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RESOLVE DOUBT IN ACCUSED FAVOUR

There is no doubt whatsoever that from the conflicting evidence adduced by the prosecution as to how the deceased was killed, strong doubt had been raised from the evidence which the law requires to be resolved in favour of the appellant.

— M. Mohammed, JSC. Udosen v State (2007) – SC.199/2005

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GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT IS THE BASIC

The basic necessity before a verdict of guilty in a criminal charge can be pronounced is that the jury are satisfied of the guilt of the accused beyond all reasonable doubt.

– Nnamani JSC. Lori v. State (1980)

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