EFFECT OF DOUBT IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS/WHETHER DOUBT MUST BE RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE ACCUSED
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CASE TITLE: CHUKWUDOZIE v. STATE (2019) LPELR-47164(CA)
JUDGMENT DATE: 28TH MARCH, 2019
PRACTICE AREA: CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE
LEAD JUDGMENT: ABUBAKAR SADIQ UMAR, J.C.A.
SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:
This appeal borders on Criminal Law and Procedure.
This is an appeal against the decision of V.N. Agbata J., of the High Court of Anambra State sitting at Ogidi, delivered on the 9th day of October 2017. By an information presented by the Attorney General of Anambra State, the Appellant and one Chikaodinaka Unigwe was charged on a lone count charge of armed robbery contrary to Section 1 (2) (3) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act Cap R11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
The prosecution’s case was that in the early hours of 3/12/2012, at Akwukwu Village along Onitsha-Owerri Express Way, the Appellant and others while armed with machetes and dagger robbed one Mr Victor Nwakama of his dollars and other valuables. The victim who was said to be in an unnamed bus coming from Lagos to Awommama, Imo State initially thought the armed robbers were co-passengers because they were on the same bus alongside other passengers. According to the victim who testified as PW1, the driver and other passengers in the bus took to their heels as soon as the bus stopped but the robbers caught up with him because he stayed back to protect some of his valuable possessions. It is also the case of the prosecution that at that material time, PW1 had his telephone handset torchlight switched on. Also, the armed robbers had their own touch-light, which they flashed indiscriminately. PW1 alleged further that there was a fluorescent light in the nearby house which provided the improved visibility of the environment thereby affording him the opportunity to clearly identify the accused person. It is also the case of the prosecution that while the armed robbers were frantically searching the bags of the PW1, one of the armed robbers screamed “Oil Minister, we have seen dollars here” and that as the armed robbers continued to search the bus thereby concentrating on the dollars and cash possessions of PW1, PW1 then seized the opportunity to escape from the scene of crime.
After the armed robbers had duly executed their illegal operation and left, PW1 and other passengers found their way back to the vehicle and came to the realization that the he had lost about One Thousand Dollars in $20.00 denomination, the sum of One hundred and Forty Thousand Naira, a Nigerian passport with visa, Swiss Marriage Certificate and other valuable properties. PW1 in his evidence stated that he reported the matter to various police stations and organizations leading to the arrest of the 1st accused person and with the assistance of the 1st accused person, the police equally arrested the 2nd accused person.
The case of the Appellant who testified as DW2, on the other hand, was that he is not an armed robber and did not participate in any armed robbery attack on Mr Victor Nwakamma or any person on 3/12/2012. The Appellant in his testimony stated further that sometimes in May 2013, after taking his lunch in his house at Akwukwu Village, police came to his house, arrested him and took him to Ojoto Police Station from where he was taken to Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police, Awkuzu where he was detained for over three months.
It is also the case of the Appellant that he was not the leader of the gang that robbed PW1 and he also denied ever spending any dollars which were said to be alleged proceed of the robbery neither did he give DW1 some dollars to spend. The Appellant in his testimony also stated that he saw PW1 for the first time in Court and that he was nicknamed “Oil Minister” when he was a palm wine tapper in the Village because palm mine was regarded as one of the mineral resources.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial Judge found the Appellant together with the other accused person guilty as charged and sentenced them 15 years in prison.
Aggrieved by the decision of the trial judge, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
The appeal was determined on the following issue:
“Whether the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt against the Appellant to justify his conviction by the trial Court?”
On the whole, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. The conviction and sentence of the Appellant were set aside and he was discharged and acquitted.
- CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE- OFFENCE OF ARMED ROBBERY: Ingredients of the offence of armed robbery; the standard of proof required of the prosecution
- CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE- DOUBT: Effect of doubt in criminal proceedings/whether doubt must be resolved in favour of the accused
- CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE- IDENTIFICATION PARADE: When it will be necessary to conduct an identification parade
- EVIDENCE- IDENTIFICATION EVIDENCE: Meaning of identification evidence and what a Court should do when confronted with it
- EVIDENCE- SUSPICION: Effect of suspicion when raised