⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson v. Chief Timipre Marlin Sylva & Ors (2016) – SC
Certification of electronic documents;
Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson
1. Chief Timipre Marlin Sylva
2. All Progressives Congress (APC)
3. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
4. PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDP)
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C.
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Tayo Oyetibo, SAN.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– S. T. Hon. SAN.
This is an appeal against the judgement of the lower court which overturned the verdict on an issue raised in the trial court. The issue was whether gadgets required to play a DVD needed to be certified in addition to the certification of the gadget that produced the video contained in the DVD.
Whether the Court of Appeal was not wrong in law when it held that the certification of the computers used to produce exhibit P42B in this case was sufficient and that it was not necessary under Section 84 of the Evidence Act 2011 to certify the computers sought to be used to demonstrate the contents of the exhibit in open?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
The Supreme Court upheld the judgement of the lower court; and stated that, when the gadget that produced the video have been certified there need not be a certification of the gadget required to play the video in open court.
S.84 of the Evidence Act 2011;
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
⦿ RELEVANT CASES
The defunct House of Lords [per Lord Griffiths] had this to say in R v. Shepherd  1 All ER 225, 231, paragraphs A-C, [HL]: Documents produced by computers are an increasingly common feature of all businesses and more and more people are becoming familiar with uses and operation. Computers vary immensely in their complexity and in the operations they perform. The nature of the evidence to discharge the burden of showing that there has been no improper use of the computer and it was operating properly will inevitably vary from case to case. The evidence must be tailored to suit the needs of the case. I suspect that it will very rarely be necessary to call an expert and that in the vast majority of cases it will be possible to discharge the burden by calling a witness who is familiar with the operation of the computer in the sense of knowing what the computer is required to do and who can say that it is doing it properly.
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
Thus, in this appeal, what is in issue in not even the admissibility of evidence, but the narrow question whether Section 84 (supra) deals with the additional requirement of certification of gadgets for playing or demonstrating an already admitted piece of evidence in open Court. – Chima Nweze, JSC. Dickson v. Sylva (2016)
A diligent examination of Section 84 of the Evidence Act reveals that the Section does not say that the computer or electronic device used in playing the DVD in open Court requires certification, rather it is only the computer that produces the DVD – Exhibit P42B’ that requires certification. Section 84 in the Evidence Act is all about ascertaining the authenticity of the device from which the exhibit was produced. – Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Dickson v. Sylva (2016)
After the DVD was admitted as Exhibit P42B’ compliance with Section 84 of the Evidence Act is no longer required as that threshold had been well and timely passed once the DVD becomes an exhibit. The examination of the DVD (an exhibit) includes playing it, and the DVD must be examined at some stage. In other climes the DVD would have been played by the Courts device and the Courts device would not require certification. The Refusal by the Tribunal to play the DVD to my mind was wrong. – Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Dickson v. Sylva (2016)
An exhibit, documentary evidence is a thing relied on by the party producing it for the sole purpose of strengthening his case. Once such evidence supports oral testimony such oral testimony becomes more credible. – Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Dickson v. Sylva (2016)
Once the conditions for admission of the document have been satisfied and the document, be it one produced by a computer or one properly so called, admitted, there can be no other requirement before the Court or Tribunal can make use of the statement contained in the document. – Ngwuta, JSC. Dickson v. Sylva (2016)
The law is explicit that where an interpretation of a Statute would defeat the cause of justice, the Court should refrain there from. – Clara Ogunbiyi, JSC. Dickson v. Sylva (2016)