Rex V. Augustine Ume & Ors (1942)
LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal
Criminal law—Stealing contra. section 390 of Criminal Code—Statements made to police by 1st and 2nd accused implicated 3rd accused in the crime-1st and 2nd accused gave evidence in witness box, and said they wished to adopt these statements as their evidence on oath and gave no further evidence— 1st and 2nd accused were acquitted-3rd accused was convicted.
The three accused were charged vi ith stealing 2 padlocks, the property of the War Department at Port Harcourt on or about the 15th May, 1942.
The appellant (third accused) had been employed as a storekeeper in the War Department store in which similar padlocks were stored. Not until June, 1942, was it found that two padlocks were missing from the store and no evidence was given as to the number of those articles kept in the store.
Upon information received a search was made of a house at No. 102 Bonny Street, Port Harcout, in which three accused had lived together but from which house, since the 1st May until 3rd June, the third accused had been absent.
Two padlocks were found in a room in the house, occupied by the 1st and 2nd accused fourteen days after the appellant had left the house and gone to Enugu and when questioned by the police officer searching the house the 2nd accused claimed the padlock to be his.
There was no evidence that the appellant was the only person who
had access to the store used by the War Department at Port Harcourt.
At the trial the 1st and 2nd accused asked that the statements made
by them to the police after arrest should be adopted by the Court as their
evidence. The trial Judge adopted this procedure and was thereby
debarred from the advantage of hearing it and of observing the witnesses’
demeanour. The 3rd accused was convicted after being similarly prejudiced.
The manner in which these statements became evidence against the appellant constituted a serious departure from the proper conduct of a criminal trial, and that in consequence the trial of the appellant was not a fair one, so that a grave miscarriage of justice resulted. Conviction quashed.
For this reason we allowed the appeal and quashed the conviction_