CASE SUMMARY OF:
Commissioner of Police v. Ephraim Alozie (2017) - SC
- Arm robbery;
- Confessional statement;
Commissioner of Police
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
- F. Egele
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Aliyu Saiki
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Bank: Zenith Bank.
Name: Branham Paul Chima.
Account No.: 2178756839.
The respondent herein, Ephraim Alozie, was arraigned before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, for the offences of conspiracy and armed robbery.
In proof of their cases, the prosecution called five witnesses, PW1 – PW5. While PW3 was the victim, PW2, a co-accused person, testified in favour of the prosecution. PW1 and PW5 were the police officers involved in the investigation of the cases. While the PW1 received the report of the robbery incident and recovered certain items from the locus criminis, the Investigating Police Officer, PW5, in his evidence, identified and tendered a confessional statement which the respondent, allegedly, made.
The said statement was recorded by Emmanuel Okoye who was a member of the investigation team. The said statement was admitted in the proceedings as exhibit B. The evidence of the PW2 was that both himself and the respondent were members of an armed robbery gang. He, it was, who spied on the victim, the deceased person, prior to the robbery incident. On his part, the respondent, not only denied making the said exhibit B; he equally denied committing the offence he was charged with.
The court (hereinafter, simply, referred to as “the trial court”), upon finding him guilty as charged, convicted and sentenced him.
His appeal to the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division was successful. The said court (hereinafter, simply, referred to “the lower court”) quashed his conviction and sentence, hence, this further appeal by the prosecution.
Whether the court below was right in rejecting and expunging the confessional statement, exhibit B, from the evidence on the ground of failure to conduct trial-within-trial resulting in the discharge and acquittal of the respondent of the offences of criminal conspiracy and armed robbery?
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. ISSUE 1 was judged in favour of the respondent.
i. It is as clear as day, that the appellant’s objection was to the voluntariness of the statement sought to be tendered, and the judge ought to have known so.
Apart from the clear words used in objecting, other evidence led before the court, clearly raised the issue of the voluntariness of the statement, which the trial judge should have considered. For before the prosecution applied to tender the appellant’s statement, PW2, David Udoh, had given evidence before the court and stated at page 188 of the record, that: ‘They took Peter and Ephraim (appellant) to the theatre and flog (sic) them to confess who killed the man who died at Dape. Peter said he was the one who shot the man. Ephraim said he was the one who was holding the gun…’
ii. The only process of determining the voluntariness of a confession is through a trial-within-trial, Mbang v. State (2013) All FWLR (Pt. 674) 102, (2013) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1352) 48, 72. This is also the only process of testing the admissibility of a confession where it is challenged on the grounds of threat, undue influence, duress, etc, Nsofor v. State (2004) 18 NWLR (Pt. 905) 292, (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 242) 397; Auta v. State (1975) 4 SC 125; Gbadamosi v. State (1991) 6 NWLR (Pt. 196) 182.
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In my considered view, the trial court here, ought to have known and ought to have considered the objection to the admissibility of the statement was clearly and crucially based on its non-volutariness and not that it was simply a denial of making it. In such a situation, the trial judge had a duty to subject that statement to the test of voluntariness before he could admit it into (sic) evidence. The only way known to law is to conduct a trial-within-trial. - Nweze, JSC. COP v. Alozie (2017)
As a corollary, the courts are bound to reject an accused person’s confession which eventuated from torture, duress, threat or inducement. - Nweze, JSC. COP v. Alozie (2017)
For this purpose, it [the trial court] would, consider issues, such as the ones indicated hereafter. They are: whether there is anything outside the confession which may vindicate its veracity; whether it is corroborated in any way; whether its contents, if tested, could be true; whether the defendant had the opportunity of committing the alleged offence; whether the confession is possible and the consistency of the said confession with other facts that have been established. - Nweze, JSC. COP v. Alozie (2017)
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