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Njoku v. State

  1. ABIGAIL NJOKU
  2. QUEENETH NJOKU
  3. EMMANUEL NJOKU

V

THE STATE

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

WALTER S. N. ONNOGHEN JSC ( Presided and Read the Lead Judgment )

IBRAHIM TANKO MUHAMMAD JSC

MUHAMMAD SAIFULLAH MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE JSC

JOHN AFOLABI FABIYI JSC

NWALI SYLVESTER NGWUTA JSC

SC.95/2010

SC.95A/2010

SC.95B/2010

CONSOLIDATED

FRIDAY, 6 JULY 2012

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Crime alleged - Actus reus and mens rea on - Mandatoriness of prosecution to prove

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Guilt of accused - Onus on prosecution to establish - Standard of proof required for - When discharged - Doubt therein - Proper attitude of court to

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Last seen - Principle of - When invoked - Where cause of death is known - Inapplicability of

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Murder - What prosecution must prove to establish - Criminal Code, section 316(1) and (2) considered

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Presumption raised by a man’s action - Test to be applied therefor

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Sentencing - Severe sentence Mitigating circumstances in favour of accused - Where exists Propriety of reduction of

EVIDENCE - Presumption raised by a man’s action - Test to be applied therefor

EVIDENCE - Standard of proof of guilt of an accused person - Onus on prosecution to establish - When discharged - Doubt therein Proper attitude of court to

STATUTE - Criminal Code, section 316(1) and (2) - Murder - What prosecution must prove to establish WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Intention’ - Meaning of

Issue:

Whether the prosecution proved that the appellants committed the offence of murder as charged and found by the lower court or manslaughter as found by the trial court.

Facts:

The 1st appellant was the wife of the deceased, while the 2nd and 3 rd appellants were his daughter and son respectively. They were alleged to have chained their father who they claimed was drunk and violent to prevent him from beating their mother and had discovered his dead body in the morning. They were therefore arriagned in the High Court of Abia on a charge of murder. The trial court convicted them of manslaughter and sentenced them to 10 years imprisonment. Not satisfied, the prosecution appealed to the Court of Appeal where the decision of the trial court was upturned with a guilty verdict for murder being entered and they were sentenced to death by hanging. Also not satisfied, the appellants filed separate appeals to the Supreme Court which were consolidated by order of court. They contended that the lower court erred by convicting them for murder when the prosecution failed to establish all the necessary ingredients of, to wit, that their act was intended to cause grievous harm to the deceased.

In determining the appeal, the Supreme Court considered the following statutes:

Criminal Code, section 319(1)

“The actus reus is essential to crime but is not sufficient for this purpose without the necessary mens rea, just as mens rea is essential to crime but is insufficient without the necessary actus reus.

Criminal Code, section 316

“knowledge that death or serious bodily harm would result from the act of an accused was one of the elements of murder. See section 316(1) and (2) of the Criminal Code. In the present case, such knowledge was not established by the prosecution. The purpose of the accused tying the deceased was to keep him away from fighting.”

Criminal Code, section 317

“The learned trial judge has in the judgment thereof held that knowledge that death or grievous harm would result from the act of the respondents was not established by the prosecution. Ironically however, he tied his hands when he stated in his findings as follows:

‘Their acts were however callous, reckless without knowing the consequence of their acts. The marks of violence confirmed that the deceased was unlawfully killed.”

Criminal Justice Act of 1967, section 8

“A court or jury, in determining whether a person has committed an offence:

  1. Shall not be bound in law to infer that he intended or foresaw a result of his actions by reason only of its being a natural and probable consequences of those actions, but
  2. shall decide whether he did intend or foresee that result by reference to all the evidence following such inferences from the evidence as appear proper in the circumstances.”