EVIDENCE – CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT – Whether a retracted confessional statement requires corroboration before Court can convict on same


“The Respondent is right, and it is clear that the Appellant is merely grasping at straws with his argument that his retracted confession required corroboration. First off, there is a distinction between a confession objected to on the ground that it was not made at all and one objected to on the ground that it was not voluntary. In the latter case, a trial-within-trial must be held to determine whether the said Confession is voluntary or not. In the former case, where the confession has been wholly retracted, the trial Court is entitled to admit the confession in evidence, and thereafter, decide whether or not the Accused Person did make the Confession, as alleged by the Police – Ikpasa V. Bendel State (1981) NSCC (Vol. 12) 300. In other words, where an Accused Person contends that he did not make the confession, the trial Court is entitled to admit it in evidence, and thereafter, decide whether he made the statement at the conclusion of trial; a trial-within-trial is not required in such circumstances. In this case, the trial Court observed that – The Accused Person denied giving the confessional statement to the Police – – The Accused Person also denied signing the statement. The Defence Counsel, however, did not object to the admission of the statement in evidence but urged the Court to determine weight to be attached to the statement – – After admission of Exhibits A & B, the Accused while giving oral evidence – – stated that he was beaten by the Police until he made the Confession. Once an Accused retracts his confessional statement, the Court must test same through a number of guidelines – – before the Court could determine whether to convict on the confessional statement or not – – I have found that –the question is whether the Accused made the confessional statement he retracted or not. It is not an issue of whether the Accused made the confessional statement voluntarily or involuntarily under duress. Since the Defence never objected to the admittance of the statement in evidence and never applied at the material time the Accused was denying making the statement for a trial-within-trial to determine whether [he] made the statement voluntarily or not—I would consider the weight to be attached to Exhibit A & B, as submitted by learned counsel to the Defence. After reviewing the evidence before the Court, the trial Court concluded as follows: Having gone through other evidence tendered through PW1, PW2, PW3, PW4 and Exhibit C, which have all corroborated substantially fads stated in the Accused’s confession in Exhibit B, I believe there is enough weight to conclude that Exhibit B is a true confession of the Accused Person. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial Court’s finding and the Appellant has argued that it erred in law when it also concluded that his statements in Exhibits A&B “amounts to a confession notwithstanding the retraction thereof by the Appellant’. The Appellant has no case. He retracted his confessional statement and a retracted Confession is admissible in evidence – Ikpasa V. Bendel State (supra). So, the trial Court took the right steps when it admitted the Statement in evidence, and after reviewing evidence before it, it decided that he did make the confession. The Court can also convict on the retracted confessional statement of an Accused, even without corroboration, so long as the Court is satisfied of the truth – see Oseni V. State (2012) 5 NWLR (Pi. 1293) 351, where this Court held that: In Nigeria, a free and voluntary confession of guilt by [an Accused], if it is direct and positive and is duly made and satisfactorily proved, it is sufficient to warrant conviction without corroborative evidence, as long as the Court is satisfied as to the truth of the Confession.” Per AMINA ADAMU AUGIE, JSC SAMA’ILA v. STATE(2021-LCER-40498-SC) (Pp 24 – 28; Paras F – A)

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