The Service Press Limited V. The Attorney-General (1952)
LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal
Criminal Code, section 50 (2)—Seditious publication—Defence of truth—Evidence of truth inadmissible.
Evidence—Charge of seditious publication—Evidence of truth of allegations inadmissible.
Criminal Law—Seditious publication—Defence of truth—Evidence of truth of allegations inadmissible.
Section 50 (2) of the Criminal Code reads as follows:—
“50.(2) A “ seditious intention ” is an intention—
“(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the person of Her Majesty, Her heirs or successors, or the person of the Governor, or the Government or constitution of the United Kingdom, or of Nigeria, as by law established or against the administration of justice in Nigeria; or
“(b) to excite Her Majesty’s subjects or inhabitants of Nigeria to attempt to procure, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any other matter in Nigeria as by law established; or
“(c) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst Her Majesty’s subjects or inhabitants of Nigeria; or
“(d) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Nigeria.
“But an act, speech or publication is not seditious by reason only that it intends:—
“(i) to show that Her Majesty has been misled or mistaken in any of her
“ (ii) to point out errors or defects in the Government or constitution of Nigeria as by law established or in legislation or in the administration of justice with a view to the remedying of such errors or defects; or
(iii) to persuade Her Majesty’s subjects or inhabitants of Nigeria to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter in Nigeria as by law established; or
“(iv)to point out, with a view-to their removal, any matters which are producing or have a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different classes of the population of Nigeria.”
The appellants were charged with publishing a seditious publication, and at the trial they sought to lead evidence that the allegations made were true but were overruled by the Judge; after conviction they appealed arguing that they could not establish a defence of bona fides under section 50 (2) (i) to (iv) without proving the truth of the allegations in the publication complained of.
The gist of the offence lies in the seditious intention as defined, which intention is to be gathered from the contents of the publication; the truth of the matter published has no bearing on the character of the publication; therefore the evidence was rightly excluded.