LAWRENCE FASUGBA (APPELLANT)
THE INSPECOR OF POLICE (RESPONDENT)
(1964) All N.L.R. 437
Division: High Court, Lagos
Date of Judgment: 15th January, 1964
Case Number: LD/42CA/63
Before: Onyeama, Ag. C.J.
The appellant was convicted mainly on the strength of the evidence of the police handwriting analyst whom the Magistrate treated as an expert. There was no evidence that the expert witness had ever been concerned with the comparison of handwriting or any attempt made to show that the witness was sufficiently qualified to be treated as an expert. The appellant's contention is that the expert evidence was wrongly admitted by the Magistrate.
(1) I do not think there was enough material before the Magistrate, judging from the record, to warrant treatment of the witness as an expert and the reception of his opinion as relevant evidence, and as the opinion was the crucial evidence on which the Magistrate relied the appeal ought to be allowed.
Conviction Quashed: Sentence set aside:
Case referred to:-
Onitiri. 12 W.A.C.A. 58.
Law referred to:-
Evidence Act, Cap. 62, sections 6(1) and 60.
Ajose Adeogun, for the Appellant.
Ibidapo Obe, for the Respondent.
Onyeama, Ag. C.J. of Lagos:-The learned Magistrate obviously treated the police handwriting analyst as an expert. He relied wholly on his evidence in convicting the accused.
The witness made out what he called a "comparative table" showing the similarities between the writing on the forged document and the admitted writing of the accused. If the Magistrate was in order in accepting the evidence then he was clearly right in convicting the accused.
The witness's opinion regarding the handwriting would only be relevant under section 56(1) or section 60 of the Evidence Act. (Cap 62). There was no evidence that the witness was acquainted with the accused's writing under section 60 and so that section would not apply.
The West African Court of Appeal in the Case of Onitiri 12 W.A.C.A. 58 considered section 56(1) of the Act and decided that the Law was correctly set out in Phipson's Manual of Evidence 8th ed. at 382 to the effect that persons "who had for some years given considerable attention and study to the subject, and had several times compared handwriting for purposes of evidence, though never before testified" as experts, may be permitted to testify as experts.
In the present case there was no evidence (certainly none on the record) that the witness had ever been concerned with the comparison of handwriting.
He said he was a handwriting analyst but it is not possible to say for how long he was such an analyst.
In the case of Onitiri the expert was examined as to his credentials and he gave them. Here, no attempt was made to show that the witness was sufficiently qualified to be treated as an expert.
I do not think there was enough material before the Magistrate-judging from the record-to warrant treatment of the witness as an expert and the reception of his opinion as relevant evidence.
As this opinion was the crucial evidence on which the Magistrate relied the appeal must be allowed.
Conviction quashed and the sentence set aside.