CASE SUMMARY OF:
Benson Ihonre v. The State (1987) - SC
(1987) NWLR (Pt. 67)778;
(1987) 12 S.C 124;
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
- Mr. Shola Rhodes.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Mr. Michael I. Edokpayi.
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FACT (as relating to the issues)
The Appellant was convicted by Edokpayi, J., (sitting at the Ekpoma Judicial Division of the Bendel State High Court) of the murder of the following persons:- (a) Ibhahikho Aireguamen a woman of 67 years of age (b) Wilson Aigbogun a child of 2 years (c) Dorothy Aigbogun another child aged 31/2 years. (d) Egbahimere Daniel aged 3 years.
In his confessional Statement to the Police, tendered as EX.A he gave the reasons as follows:- "I believe that Ibhahikho Aigbogun, Jona Aigbogun and Daniel were the people who injured me with their witchcraft. Because they have confessed that they were the people who killed my junior brother Francis Ihonre in 1982. That is why I decided to kill Ibhahikho Aigbogun (f), Wilson Aigbogun (m), Dorothy Aigbogun (f) and Ebehimere Daniel (f) because it was Ibhahikho Aigbogun, Jona Aigbogun and Daniel that brought the whole trouble to the three children killed. I know that to kill is bad, but in this case I was frustrated. That is all"
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
[APPEAL: DISMISSED, the Supreme Court stated, "Counsel for the appellant and Counsel for the respondent were both agreed that there was nothing that could usefully be urged in favour of the appellant. Having gone through the record of the proceedings in this case, I have no doubt that both counsel were right in the view they have formed of the appeal of the appellant."]
THE SUPREME COURT HELD, DISMISSING THE APPEAL:
It is relevant here to observe that there is no finding from the trial Court that the Appellant was insane or that he suffered from delusions of any kind. The Appellant killed his victims, from his own ipse dixit, because "they were the people who kill my junior brother Francis Ihonre in 1982." Here the motive is clearly revenge and revenge is no defence even to a deluded mind. His other reason for these brutal and ghastly butcheries was that "they were the people who injured me by their witchcraft." Here again the motive force is still revenge. At the time the Appellant killed his victims they were not attacking him either in the real world or in the fantasy world or make belief induced by delusion (if he suffered from delusion) so the defences of Self-Defence and Provocation were not available to the Appellant: see Iwuanyanwu v. The State (1964) 1 All.N.L.R.413. There was nothing from the entire evidence to suggest that the Appellant was in any fear of immediate danger to his own life either real or imaginary. He knew what he was doing and he knew that what he was doing was wrong.
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My only comment here is Where does one draw the line between superstition and delusion? Delusion if established affords a defence under Section 28 of the Criminal Code Cap 42 of 1958 but superstition does not. What then happens if a superstitious belief leads to a delusion? Will it then be right to dismiss the defence just summarily because it is based on a "superstitious belief?" After all, there is much in common between superstition and delusion as both are based upon a concept for which there is no reasonable foundation; upon a belief in a state or condition of things which no rational person would believe and which refuses to yield either to evidence or reason. A belief in witchcraft may, if proved, amount to a delusion in which case the criminal responsibility of the accused holding such belief would be based on the law relating to the defence of delusion and not be simply dismissed as superstitious. - Oputa, JSC. Ihonre v. State (1987)
When a crime as heinous as murder is committed there is usually public outrage and outcry. But when the actual trial commences there is usually sympathy for the accused. The Courts should be able to keep a judicial and proper distance between the earlier outrage and outcry and the later sympathy; remembering always that the interest of justice demands that the innocent be exonerated and freed but that the guilty be convicted and punished. - Oputa, JSC. Ihonre v. State (1987)
What is important then is not the bare belief in witchcraft but rather the effect of such belief on the person accused. - Oputa, JSC. Ihonre v. State (1987)
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