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Rex V. I. T. A. Wallace Johnson (1940) LJR-WACA

Rex V. I. T. A. Wallace Johnson (1940)

LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal

Criminal libel—Proof required.

HELD : It is not incumbent upon the prosecution to prove that a libel is calculated to provoke a breach of the peace it is sufficient if it is calculated to vilify a man and bring him into hatred, contempt and ridicule.

Rex v. Wicks (XXV Criminal Appeal Reports p. 168) followed. 29th Edition of Archbold’s Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice varied by 30th Edition. There is no necessity to set out the facts.

0. I. E. During for Defendant-Appellant. E. S. Beoku Betts for Crown.

The following joint judgment was delivered :-
KINGDON, PETRIDES AND GRAHAM PAUL, C. J J.

In this case we can find no substance in any of the grounds of appeal. The only one which need be mentioned is No. 5 which reads :-

” His Honour the learned Acting Chief Justice failed to direct himself and the Assessors that the essential in a criminal prosecution for libel is that such a publication is calculated to cause a breach of the peaces”

In support of this ground, Counsel for the Appellant relies upon the passage at p. 1266 of the 29th Edition of Archbold’s Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice :— –

” A defamatory libel consists in the writing and publishing of defamatory words of any living person, or words calculated or intended to provoke him tl wrath or to expose him to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to damage his reputation . . . and such a libel is an indictable misdemeanour if the publication

See also  T. O. Williams & Anor V. J. T. Nelson Cole & Ors. (1952) LJR-WACA

. . is calculated to cause a breach of the peace.”

But in the 30th edition of that book the words ” if the publication . . . is calculated to cause a breach of the peace ” have been omitted. This is in consequence of the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal in the case of ” Rex v. Wicks ” (25 Criminal Appeal p. 168) when precisely the same argument as has been submitted to us on this ground was submitted to the Court of Criminal Appeal in England on behalf of Wicks. That submission was overruled by the Court of Criminal Appeal end du Parcq, J. in giving the judgment of that Court quoted with approval the words of Mansfield, C. J. in Thoeley v. Lord Kerry (1812) 4 Taunt 353 at p. 364 ” There is no doubt that this was a libel, for which the Plaintiff in error might have been indicted and punished ; because though the words impute no punishable crimes, they contain that sort of imputation which is calculated to vilify a man and bring him, as the books say, into hatred, contempt, and ridicule ; for all words of that description an indictment lies “.This ground of appeal therefore fails in this case as it did in that of R. v. Wicks.187Rexv. Wallace JohnsonKingdon, Petrides and Graham Paul, C. J J.


The appeal is dismissed.

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