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WEIGHT/CONSIDERATIONS TO BE ATTACHED TO A CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT

Dictum

The fact that an accused person denies making a confessional statement to the police, does not render such extra-judicial statement inadmissible merely because the accused person denies having made it. What the Court is expected to do to determine the weight to be attached to a retracted confessional statement is to test its truthfulness and veracity by examining the said statement in the light of other credible available evidence. The Court would consider whether: a. There is anything outside that Confessional statement to show that it is true; b. It is Corroborated; c. The facts stated in it are true as far as it can be tested; d. The accused person had the opportunity of committing the offence; e. The accused person’s confession is possible; f. The confession is consistent with the other facts ascertained and proved at the trial. See Per OKORO, JSC, in ALAO V. STATE (2019) LPELR-47856(SC) (PP. 23-24 PARAS. E).

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

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CONFESSION DOES NOT BECOME IRRELEVANT DUE TO DECEPTION

My Lords, the law is trite that a confession otherwise relevant does not become irrelevant merely because it was made under a promise of secrecy, or in consequence of a deception practiced on the defendant for the purpose of obtaining it, or when he was drunk, or because it was made in answer to questions which he needed to have answered, whatever may have been the form of these questions, or because he was not warned that he was not bound to make such statement and the evidence of it might be given.

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

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DENIAL OF CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT DOES NOT MAKE THE CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT INADMISSIBLE

Against this background, it is important to note that the Appellant, in the course of his evidence-in-chief before the lower Court, retracted from the said Exhibits A and A1, thus prompting the lower Court into deciding that the entire evidence of the Appellant was at that stage unreliable and therefore discountenanced same; but the settled position of the law is that a retraction of a confession does not ipso facto render the confession inadmissible. See the old case of R. v. JOHN AGAGARIGA ITULE (1961) 1 ANLR 402 (FSC) where the Supreme Court per BRETT, Ag CJF held thus; “A confession does not become inadmissible merely because the accused person denies having made it and in this respect a confession contained in a statement made to the Police by a person under arrest is not to be treated different from any other confession. The fact that the Appellant took the earliest opportunity to deny having made the statement may lend weight to his denial. See R v. SAPELE and ANOR (1952) 2 FSC 74 but it is not in itself a reason for ignoring the statement.” … It would be further recalled that the Appellant took the earliest opportunity when the statement was offered in evidence to deny having made it. But the position remains in law, that a mere denial without more, even at the earliest opportunity, cannot, on the bare facts of the case, lend any iota of weight to the denial. Apart from the fact that the denial is a bare statement bereft of any supporting facts, it is by and large, standing only on the ipsi dexit of the Appellant. To make matters rather worse and as revealed by the printed records in this case, the said statements were not even challenged on grounds of involuntariness and the learned trial Court in its Ruling on the objection raised by the Appellant rightly declined the invitation to conduct a trial within trial. Against this backdrop, the question of the voluntariness of the statements, not having been raised or challenged at the trial, this Court therefore holds that the prosecution proved affirmatively that Exhibits A and A1 were voluntary confessional statements of the Appellant. Regardless of this position, the usual thing in all criminal trials is that the burden of proving affirmatively beyond doubt that the confession was made voluntarily is always on the prosecution, which this prosecution succeeded in doing as expected in this case. See the cases of JOSHUA ADEKANBI v. A-G WESTERN NIGERIA (1961) All NLR 47; R v. MATON PRIESTLY (1966) 50 CR APP. R 183 at 188; ISIAKA AUTA v. THE STATE (1975) NNLR 60 at 65 SC on the issue.

— F.O. Oho, JCA. Nasiru v State (2016) – CA/S/78C/2015

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CONVICTION CAN BE FOUNDED ON RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT

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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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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FREE AND VOLUNTARY CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT CAN GROUND A CONVICTION

In the case of Udo v State (2016) 12 NWLR (Pt.1525) pp.33-34, paras. H-A, this Court held that: “Free and voluntary confessional statement of an accused alone is sufficient to sustain his conviction, provided the Court is satisfied that it was made in a free atmosphere and is direct, unequivocal and positively proved. In this case, the two statements made by the appellant as Exhibits 4 and 5 were confessional. They were sufficient to convict the appellant thereon. Consequently, the defence of alibi raised by the accused during his testimony was too late in the day and only an afterthought”.

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RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS STILL ADMISSIBLE

In ASIMI V. STATE (2016) LPELR – 40436 (SC), this Court per Rhodes Vivour JSC at Pp 14-15, para E-C stated succinctly thus: 22 “Once, an extra-judicial confession has been proved as in this case to have been made voluntarily and it is positive and unequivocal, amounting to an admission of guilt (such as the appellant’s confessional statement, Exhibit P6) a Court can convict on it even if the appellant retracted or resiled from it at trial. Such an afterthought does not make the confession inadmissible. It is desirable but not mandatory that there is general corroboration of the important incidents and not that retracted confession should be corroborated in each material particular.”

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