Aremu V Inspector-general Of Police (1965) LLJR-SC

Aremu V Inspector-general Of Police (1965)

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The appellant and two other persons were tried summarily in the court of the Chief Magistrate, Warri, on charges of conspiring together to commit the felony of robbery and of robbing Richard Rogers of a number of articles. It is not disputed that Rogers was robbed by an armed gang of about eight persons while traveling by boat from Ward to Gana-Gana and the question was whether any of the accused persons were among the gang. The other two accused persons were not satisfactorily identified and were acquitted on both charges, and since the charge of conspiracy did not contain an allegation that the three named persons conspired with other persons unknown as well as with one another the appellant was necessarily acquitted on this charge also. He was, however, convicted of robbery and there is nothing in the submission that these verdicts are in any way inconsistent.

On appeal to the High Court the conviction was upheld and the sentence was increased from five years’ to ten years’ imprisonment. The High Court gave leave to appeal to this Court on grounds of fact. The first ground of appeal filed is “that the decision is altogether unwarranted, unreasonable and cannot be supported having regard to the weight of evidence”, and we were at first disposed to criticise the reference to the “weight of evidence” in a criminal appeal. Mr. Irikefe, however, drew our attention to s.80 (h) of the Magistrates’ Courts Law and pointed out that he had followed its wording precisely in drafting the notice of appeal, and having regard to s.30 of the Supreme Court Act, 1960, we have to agree that this is a properly worded ground of appeal in cases originating in the Magistrates’ Courts of Western or Mid-Western Nigeria.

In support of this ground of appeal Mr. Irikefe said all that could fairly be said on behalf of his client, but we found it unnecessary to call on the Director of Public Prosecutions to reply on the facts. The evidence of identification was circumstantial, not direct, but there was ample justification for the Chief Magistrate’s findings of fact and for the conclusions he drew from them. The appeal against conviction is dismissed.

The Director of Public Prosecutions conceded that the High Court had no jurisdiction to increase the sentence to one exceeding the maximum sentence which the Chief Magistrate could have imposed: Nwobu and Mordi v. Police [1962] All N.L.R. 382. The sentence, as altered by the High Court, is set aside and a sentence of five years’ imprisonment is substituted.

We would add, however, that we share the view expressed by the High Court, that cases of armed robbery are not, generally speaking, suitable for trial by a magistrate and that the appellant ought to have been committed for trial in the High Court, even if, as would appear, certain inconvenience to witnesses would have resulted.

Other Citation: (1965) LCN/1236(SC)

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