Ted Kayode Adams V Director Of Public Prosecutions Of The Federation (1966) LLJR-SC

Ted Kayode Adams V Director Of Public Prosecutions Of The Federation (1966)

LawGlobal-Hub Lead Judgment Report

BAIRAMIAN, J.S.C.

The appellant was tried in the High Court of Lagos on a complaint (put briefly) that on the 8th June, 1965 at the University of Lagos, Surulere, with intent unlawfully to kill Dr Saburi Biobaku, he stabbed him with a sharp knife, an act likely to endanger human life, contrary to section 320(2) of the Criminal Code. In addressing the jury learned counsel for the appellant, then the defendant on trial, asked the jury to find that the defendant acted under uncontrollable impulse and spoke to them on the burden and degree of proof of insanity; in his summing up Omululu, J. directed the jury inter alia on the defence of insanity; and the jury returned a unanimous verdict that-

‘the accused committed the act but at the time of the commission he was suffering from some uncontrollable impulse.’

Below that the learned judges note is as follows:

‘Court: The order of the court shall be that Ted Kayode Adams be detained in the Yaba Mental Asylum. I shall forward a report to the President for his order under section 230(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act.’

His solicitor, Mr Onyeabo C. Obi, who was counsel for the defence at the trial, gave notice of appeal on the defendants behalf, on the following grounds:

‘1. That the learned Special Assize judge erred in law in not formally entering a finding of not guilty for the defendant following the verdict of the jury.

2. That the learned Special Assize judge erred in law in not formally acquitting and discharging the defendant following the verdict of the jury.

3. That the learned Special Assize judge erred in law in ordering the defendant to be detained at the Yaba Asylum and making a report to His Excellency the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under section 230(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act, Cap. 43, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and Lagos,1958 Edition, following the verdict of the jury.’

Mr Obi argued the appeal, and Mr Candido Johnson appeared for the respondent but was not called upon; the hearing took place on December 1.6th. Both the learned counsel agreed that the verdict of the jury was that the defendant did the act but was not criminally responsible within the meaning of section 28 of the Criminal Code, which provides that-

’28. A person is not criminally responsible for an act or omission if at the time of doing the act or making the omission he is in such a state of mental disease or natural mental infirmity as to deprive him of capacity to understand what he is doing, or of capacity to control his actions, or of capacity to know that he ought not to do the act or make the omission.’ (The second paragraph relates to delusions and is not relevant in this case). The words ‘A person is not criminally responsible’ import that he is not guilty of the offence charged and must be acquitted; and the appeal was argued on the basis of the defendant having been acquitted. Mr Obi argued that he, having been acquitted, ought to have been discharged in accordance with section 62 of the Jury Act (cap. 90 in the 1958 Laws of the Federation), which provides that-

’62. If the jury find the accused person not guilty he shall be immediately discharged from custody on that.indictment.’

That is similar to section 246 of the Criminal Procedure Act (cap. 43), which provides that-

“246. If the court finds the accused not guilty the accused shall forthwith be discharged and an order of acquittal recorded.’

That is the general rule, which does not derogate from the special provisions of section no of the Criminal Procedure Act; for the sake of Mr Obis argument we cite s. 230 together with section 229:

‘229. Whenever any person is acquitted upon the ground that at the time at which he is alleged to have committed an offence he was by reason of unsoundness of mind incapable of knowing the nature of the act alleged as constituting the offence or that it was wrong or contrary to law, the finding shall state specifically whether he committed the act or not.’

‘230. (1) Whenever the finding states that the accused person committed the act alleged, the court before which the trial has been held shall, if such act would but for incapacity found have constituted an offence, order such person to be kept in safe custody in such place and manner as the court thinks fit and shall report the case for the order of the President.

(2) The President may order such person to be confined in a lunatic asylum, prison or other suitable place of safe custody during the pleasure of the President.’

We have to stress in subsection (1) of that section 230 the words ‘if such act would but for incapacity found have constituted an offence’, where the word incapacity, read with section 28 of the Criminal Code, is wide enough to include all the three cases of incapacity stated in this section 28, namely (1) the defendants incapacity to understand what he is doing, or (2) his incapacity to control his actions, or (3) his incapacity to know that he ought not to do the act or make the omission.

Anyone of those incapacities, if due tomental disease or natural mental infirmity, is enough for the defence of insanity which exonerates the defendant under the said section 28; and Mr Obi told us that his defence at the trial was that the defendant was deprived of capacity to control his actions owing to natural mental infirmity.

The learned counsels argument is that section 230) of the Criminal Procedure Act must be read together with section 229 and confined to insanity due to the incapacities mentioned in section 229, namely the incapacity of knowing the nature of the act alleged or the incapacity of knowing that the act was wrong or contrary to law-which are equivalent to the 1st incapacity and the 3rd mentioned in section 28 of the Criminal Code. The learned counsel points out that the 2nd incapacity in s. 28 of the Criminal Code, namely the doers incapacity to control his actions, is omitted from s. 229 of the Criminal Procedure Act and ought not to be included in section 230, because s. 230 affects the liberty of the subject and must be strictly construed even though the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Act are statutes dealing with related matters.

Section 229 relates to acquittal on the ground of insanity, and enjoins the trial court upon such acquittal to state in the finding specifically whether the defendant committed the act or not: for, if he committed the act, it is necessary to confine him. The object of confining him is to safeguard the public from an insane persons criminal propensities, and he is usually sent to a mental hospital where he can be suitably looked after. When a person is insane and criminally inclined, it makes no difference whether he has one incapacity or another -whether his incapacity is to understand what he is doing, or to know that he ought not to do it, or to control his actions. We cannot see why a person who stabs because he is so insane as not to know that he ought not to stab should be confined, and yet a person who stabs because he cannot control his actions should be left at large to the danger of the public, and we would not agree to exclude the insanity of uncontrollable impulse from the operation of section 230 unless we were compelled to do so by reasons of sound interpretation; but these do not exist.

Mr Obis argument from section 229 presupposes that section 229 prohibits the court, in a case of uncontrollable impulse due to insanity, from stating in its finding that the defendant did the act because of such impulse. What the section does is to enjoin the court so to state in cases of the other two incapacities: it does not prohibit the court or the jury from stating that the defendant did the act alleged under uncontrollable impulse. It was counsel for the defendant who invited the jury so to find, and the jury did so find: he cannot ask the court to accept the finding for the purpose of acquittal from guilt and at the same time to reject as surplusage the portion of the finding that attracts an order of safe custody under section 230. The jurys finding must be taken as a whole; it was a legitimate finding, and all its consequences must follow.

However sorry we may feel for this young student of law, we hope he will realise that the aim of the criminal law is to curb the passions of man, and that on the jurys finding he ought to be confined in safe custody during pleasure not only for the sake of protecting the public from. his propensity to stab because he cannot control himself, but also for his own sake: his case history for his defence of insanity shows that he tried to do grave harm to himself more than once, and he needs to be looked after.

The appeal is dismissed.


Other Citation: (1966) LCN/1353(SC)

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