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WHAT IS A SUMMARY TRIAL IN CRIMINAL CASES?

Dictum

A summary trial is therefore a short proceeding that does away with the rigours of a full trial, hearing of witnesses or tendering of documents. It is a proceeding that settles a controversy or disposes of a case in a relatively prompt and simple manner. It entails immediate action without following the rigmarole in normal legal procedure. As a matter of procedure, summary trial allows for conviction of an accused person based on his or her admission of guilt to an indictable offence other than capital.

– A. Jauro JSC. Balogun v. FRN (2021)

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EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE IS THE PRIMARY FUNCTION OF A TRIAL COURT

“Courts of trial are expected to carry out their sacred duties of review, evaluation and appraisal, as ascription of probative values, when determining cases presented before them, so that as much as possible, cases are decided on admissible and credible evidence. The receipt of relevant evidence is an act of perception, while the evaluation of evidence and findings of facts by a trial Court involves both perception and evaluation. A trial Court that fails in this duty, fails in its duty of being an impartial arbiter in the adversarial system of the administration of justice – Guardian Newspaper V Ajeh (2011) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1256) 574, 582. Thus the evaluation of relevant and material evidence and ascription of probative value to such evidence, both oral and documentary, are the primary functions and within the domain of the trial Court which saw, heard and assessed the witnesses.”

— J.H. Sankey, JCA. Ibrahim Muli v Sali Akwai (2021) – CA/G/423/2019

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A TRIAL BY A COURT IS THE ONLY PERMITTED WAY TO PROVE GUILT – EXCLUSIVE TO THE COURT

ACTION CONGRESS v INEC (2007) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1048) 220 at 259 – 260, as follows: “The disqualification in Section 137(1) clearly involves a deprivation of right and a presumption of guilt for embezzlement or fraud in derogation of the safeguards in Section 36(1) and (5) of the Constitution. The trial and conviction by a Court is the only constitutionally permitted way to prove guilt and therefore the only ground for the imposition of criminal punishment or penalty for the criminal offences of embezzlement or fraud. Clearly, imposition of the penalty of disqualification for embezzlement or fraud solely on the basis of an indictment for those offences by an Administrative Panel of Enquiry implies a presumption of guilt, contrary to Section 36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, 1999, whereas, conviction for offences and imposition of penalties and punishments are matters appertaining exclusively to judicial power.” See also on this: AMAECHI v INEC & ORS (2008) LPELR-446(SC) at pages 49-51, paras. E F; OMOWAIYE v A.G. OF EKITI STATE & ANOR (2010) LPELR-4779(CA) at pages 28 – 28, paras. A F, per Nweze, JCA (as he then was); and ABDULKARIM & ORS v SHINKAFI & ORS (2008) LPELR 3555(CA) at pages 24 32, paras. A C.

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DISCIPLINARY PANEL CANNOT TRY OFFENCES IN THE CRIMINAL/PENAL CODE

The trial of erring students for criminal offences or breaches of the criminal code and penal code Laws are not within the jurisdiction conferred. Accordingly the purported investigation by the Investigating Panel and Disciplinary Board and the punishment meted out to the appellants cannot stand and are hereby declared a nullity … It is in the interest of the Government and every individual in this country that the guilt of crime should not be tagged on to any individual without a proper trial in courts of law known as such under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. – Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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STATUTE SETTING TRIAL TIME LIMIT IS VOID

Bello, JSC, (later CJN, now of blessed memory) in the case of Unongo v. Aku and Ors. (1983) 14 NSCC 563 at 577-578 thus – “One of the powers which has always been recognised as inherent in courts has been the right to control their internal proceedings and to so conduct the same that the rights of all suitors before them may be safeguarded in such a manner that all parties are given ample opportunity to prosecute or defend the cases for or against them without let or hinderance. The old adage that delay of justice is denial of justice has the same force as the maxim that hasty or hurried justice is also a denial of justice. On this account any statute which prescribes time limit within which a trial court must try and determine cases or within which an appeal court must hear and determine appeals is inconsistent with the provisions of Sections 4(8) and 6(9)(b) of the Constitution and is therefore void by virtue of Section 1(3) of the Constitution.”

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PLEA BEFORE TRIAL COMMENCES

The trial does not commence until the plea is taken.

– Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C. Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017)

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ALL MEMBERS OF PANEL MUST PARTICIPATE IN TRIAL

The LPDC is not an appellate body but an adjudicator of first instance, all the members who delivered the Directions must have participated in the full trial after utilizing the opportunity of seeing the demeanor of witnesses, etc.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Gbenoba v. LPDC (2021)

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