Rex V. Gide of Asatuwa (1935)
LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal
Murder—Inadmissible Evidence of Accused’ s bad character—dutyfromof trial Judge to discard same—distinction between Judge andHighJury when inadmissible evidence is unexpectedly given—Court.Appeal dismissed.
There is no necessity to set out the facts of this case.
0. 0. A lakija for Appellant. A. R. W. Sayle for Crown.
The following joint judgment was delivered:—
KINGDON, C.J., NIGERIA, WEBBER, 0.J., SIERRA LEONE, AND BUTLER-LLOYD, J.
In this case the only possible ground upon which this Court could be asked to quash the conviction of the appellant for murder is the fact that the first witness for the prosecution when giving evidence in chief was asked ” What is accused’s occupation? ” and replied ” Stealing.” That was at once evidence of accused’s bad character and therefore inadmissible. The trial Judge promptly and properly formally disallowed the question and answer.
Directly the accused started to cross-examine it became evident that it was an essential part of his defence that he was a bad character i.e. his defence was that the crime was put upon him by the prosecution witnesses on account of his known bad character.
In the trial of illiterate and primitive men where the witnesses are of the same class it is frequently impossible to prevent the accused’s previous character becoming known to the Court. Frequently, as in this case, the accused himself is anxious to bring it to notice.
When this happens it is the duty of the trial Judge to instruct himself to disregard such character in weighing the evidenct., against the accused whilst allowing it full weight in so far as it tells in accused’s favour upon the probabilities. A Judge is no; in quite the same position as a jury. He is trained to disregard inadmissible evidence which may be brought out by chance. In this case the Judge’s summing up and instruction io himself :- exactly what it ought to be, and if this Court were to quash the
conviction it would make the difficulties of conducting trials of this nature almost, insuperable. There has obviously been no miscarriage of justice in this case, the evidence of the prosecution pointing overwhelmingly to the guilt of the accused.
The appeal is dismissed.