PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT - DUTY ON A PROSECUTION TO PROVE ITS CASE BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT AND NOT BEYOND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT
Topic starter June 19, 2020 1:24 pm
"The question as to whether an accused person has introduced reasonable doubt in a criminal charge as established against him by the evidence led by the prosecution, is always a fact for resolution in a criminal trial. This, being the position, there is no dearth of authorities in respect of terms like beyond reasonable doubt and reasonable doubt. One of the cases in which the meaning of the terms was considered is the old case of Bakare V. The State (1987) 3 S.C 1. Therein, the Supreme Court dwelling on proof beyond reasonable doubt vis-a-vis reasonable doubt stated thus: -
In his Brief, which was too brief to be of much use, learned counsel for the Appellant submitted that "there is only one issue for determination in this appeal; viz "whether or not the prosecution had proved its case beyond every reasonable doubt". From the particulars of error/misdirection (supporting this ground of appeal) which were further elaborated in the Brief, it is obvious that there is here a thorough misconception of the requirement that the prosecution should prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
Proof beyond reasonable doubt stems out of the compelling presumption of innocence inherent in our adversary system of criminal justice. To displace this presumption, the evidence of the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt, not beyond the shadow of any doubt that the person accused is guilty of the offence charged. Absolute certainty is impossible in any human adventure including the administration of criminal justice. Proof beyond reasonable doubt means just what it says. It does not admit of plausible and fanciful possibilities but it does admit of a high degree of cogency, consistent with an equally high degree of probability. As Denning, J. (as he then was) observed in Miller v. Minister of Pensions (1947) 2 All. E.R. 373: -
"The law would fail to protect the community if it admitted fanciful possibilities to deflect the course of justice. If the evidence is so strong as to leave only a remote possibility in his favour which can be dismissed with the sentence - of course it is possible but not in the least probable the case is proved beyond reasonable doubt"....
Also it has to be noted that there is no burden on the prosecution to prove its case beyond all doubt. No. The burden is to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt with emphasis on reasonable. Not all doubts are reasonable. Reasonable doubt will automatically exclude unreasonable doubt, fanciful doubt, imaginary doubt and speculative doubt - a doubt not borne out by the facts and surrounding circumstances of the case.
–PER A. O. LOKULO-SODIPE, J.C.A IN MICHAEL ORI v. THE STATE
suit no: CA/OW/188/2015
Legalpedia Electronic Citation: (2020) Legalpedia (CA) 65118