THE REPUBLIC (COMPLAINANT)
JOSEPH NWACHUKWU (ACCUSED)
(1964) All N.L.R. 528
Division: High Court, Lagos
Date of Judgment: 6th October, 1964
Case Number: LA/27C/64
Before: Taylor, C.J.
One Gloria Effiong, a girl of about nine years of age, was indecently assaulted on 9th April, 1964, by someone; as a result of the assault, she bled profusely for two days and became an in-patient at the general hospital for at least nine days; medical report on her show that she had never had sexual intercourse before that day; the girl alleged that it was the accused person who assaulted her, but the accused person denied the allegation and the point for decision is as to the identity of the ravisher.
At the trial, evidence given by the girl required corroboration because she was not sworn and also by virtue of the proviso to section 218 of the Criminal Code under which the charge is brought; the prosecution's case was that the girl was seen by her aunt with bloodstains on her waist and foot, at about 5:30 pm that day, standing in front of the room of the accused person at 30 Olode Okuta Street, Surulere, when the aunt was looking for her; the door of the accused person's room was knocked and when he came out he was asked what he knew about the blood on the girl; the accused instead asked the guardian of the girl to come into the room for a settlement about what had happened, but the request was refused; later the accused made a confessional statement to the police in which he admitted that at about 1:00 pm that day, whilst the girl was in his room, "I started to romance her and later I used my fingers in her private and there was no blood after that. But when I woke up from sleep, I heard so much noise and when I came out I saw her bleeding." The accused person tried unsuccessfully to establish that the girl had had sexual intercourse with other people before. The court believed the evidence of the prosecution witnesses and held that the accused's statements are hardly consistent or compatible with innocence.
(1) There is no doubt that ample corroboration of the evidence of the complainant as to the identity of her ravisher exists, and that he was the accused person.
(2) What may or may not amount to corroboration depends entirely on the circumstances of any case, and the question of corroboration can be sufficiently established where the evidence show element of suspicion against the defender or where the statement made by the defender in rebuttal thereof is proved to be false.
Accused found guilty as charged: Sentenced to four years imprisonment.
Cases referred to:-
Credland v. Knowler 35 C.A.R. 48.
Dawson v. Mckenzie (1908) 45 Sc. L. Rep. 474.
Act referred to:-
Criminal Code, Cap. 42, section 218.
Obi, for the Accused person.
Taylor, C.J. of Lagos:-The accused is charged with the unlawful defilement of one Gloria Effiong, a girl of about nine years of age, contrary to section 218 of the Criminal Code.
In short the case for the State is that on the 9th of April, 1964, in the afternoon, the accused sent the complainant to buy some snuff; that when the complainant returned and handed the snuff to the accused, the latter pulled her into his room and forcibly had sexual intercourse with her as a result of which she bled profusely and had to be admitted as an in-patient at the general hospital where she remained for at least nine days.
In proof of this the prosecution called five witnesses. The first was the complainant herself a girl of tender years, dull, and whose evidence in some respects to which my attention was drawn by Counsel for the accused conflicted with her testimony in the court below as well as with the testimony of her aunt PW4, Atim Ekpenyong, and the latter's husband PW5, Inyang Udo Ekpenyong. The complainant was not sworn for reasons which appear in my record, and for this reason as well as the proviso to section 218 of the Criminal Code her evidence requires corroboration.
That this nine-year-old girl was ravished on the 9th April, 1964, by someone; that as a result she bled profusely for two days; that she was an in-patient at the general hospital for at least nine days and finally that the complainant had never had sexual intercourse before the day in question are facts wholly borne out by the evidence of Dr Sala Saraki, PW2., whose evidence I accept in toto.
The evidence of PW4, Atim Ekpenyong, and PW5, Inyang Udo Ekpenyong, also show beyond any doubt at all that the ravisher was someone who was in the premises at 30 Olode Okuta Street, Idi Oro, Suru Lere, on the day in question and at the relevant time of the day, i.e. around 5:30 pm.
The only point for consideration therefore is as to the identity of the ravisher. The complainant in her evidence says the accused was the one who ravished her on the day in question. An attempt was made without any success whatsoever to show either that the complainant had previously had sexual intercourse with Messrs Obum and Chiko or that she was a person who was in the habit of making reports against the tenants at 30 Olode Okuta Street to the effect that they have had sexual intercourse with her. This attempt I say met with no success because on the evidence of PW5, Inyang Udo Ekpenyong, which I accept, the complaint was made by him against Messrs Obum and Chiko and in relation to some quarrel with PW4, Atim Ekpenyong, and not the complainant at all who be it noted only stayed at 30 Olode Okuta Street from around the 6th April to 9th April. The report against Obum and Chiko was made some five or six months previous to that. I am aware that the complainant visited the 4th and 5th PW's before the 6th April, 1964, but I accept the evidence of PW5 that the reports he made were wholly unconnected with the complainant.
Now the onus is on the State to establish the identity of the ravisher as indeed every part of its case without any shadow of a reasonable doubt. In addition to the evidence of the complainant that the accused was the person who had-sexual intercourse with her, the State has led evidence to show that at about 5:30 pm PW4, Atim Ekpenyong shouted for the complainant and when she came out to look for the latter she saw the complainant in front of the room of the accused at 30 Olode Okuta Street, Suru Lere; that when she saw her, the complainant's waist and foot were bloodstained. This finding is supported by the evidence of PW5, Inyang Udo Ekpenyong, who went further and deposed to the following conversation that took place between himself and the accused:-
"I went straight to the room of the accused and knocked at his door. The accused came out. I asked him what he knew about the blood on the girl Gloria Effiong. He said I should come into his room for a settlement about what has happened to Gloria. I refused and asked him to follow me to the station. He still tried to persuade me to come in for a settlement but I insisted."
In addition to this is the following piece of evidence deposed by Dr Sala Saraki that:-"The accused asked me to help him in this case and I said I did not do that sort of thing."
Now when all that is taken into account together with the admission in exhibit "A", the statement made by the accused, that on the day in question in the afternoon, though he says it was at about 1:00 pm the complainant did come to his room and to use his own words:-
"At this time, I started to romance her and later I used my fingers in her private and there was no blood after that. But when I woke up from sleep, I heard so much noise and when I came out I saw her bleeding."
Can there be any doubt at all that ample corroboration of the evidence of the complainant as to the identity of her ravisher exists, and that he was the accused person? I think not. It is difficult if not impossible to lay down any hard and fast rule that will be water-tight in every case as to what should or should not amount to corroboration, for what may be corroboration in one case may very well be insufficient corroboration in another; unless of course the two cases are absolutely identical on the facts, a rarity not experienced in courts of Law.
The Lord Chief Justice delivering the Judgment of the court in the case of Credland v. Knowler 35 C.A.R. 48 at 55 approved of the following statement of the law by Lord Dunedin in Dawson v. Mckenzie 1908 45 Sc. L. Rep. 474 that:
"Mere opportunity alone does not amount to corroboration, but two things may be said about it. One is, that the opportunity may be of such a character as to bring in the element of suspicion. That is that the circumstances and locality of the opportunity may be such as in themselves to amount to corroboration. The other is that the opportunity may have a complexion put upon it by statements made by the defender which are proved to be false. It is not that a false statement made by the defender proves that the pursuer's statements are true, but it may give to a proved opportunity a different complexion from what it would have borne had no such false statements been made."
The accused's statements to PW2 and PW5 are hardly consistent or compatible with innocence.
The acceptance by me of the evidence of PW4 and PW5 puts a lie to the story of the accused as to the time the complainant was with him, the allegation that he used his finger and not his sexual organ for, as he put it, "to romance her," and that the bleeding was not the result of his actions.
I have not the slightest doubt that the accused was the culprit. In arriving at this conclusion I have not taken into account the evidence of PW3, Godfrey Anyanwu, as to exhibit "B" for the evidence does not satisfy me that exhibit "B" was one of the three exhibits referred to in exhibit "C" the Medico-Legal Report.
I therefore find the accused guilty as charged.
Allocutus: Obi pleads for accused. Says accused has been found guilty of a very serious offence. Accused person is aged 25 years. He is a married man with a child aged four months. He has been in custody for six months. He is a first offender. As lenient a sentence should be imposed. I have sympathy for the complainant but it is my duty to urge the court to be as lenient as possible against the accused.
Obi: Nothing known against the accused.
Court: I have taken into consideration all that has been said by Counsel for the appellant on his behalf. This offence is indeed a very serious one. The victim a young girl of nine years was as was deposed to by the doctor so forcibly ravished that the artery surrounding the hymen was torn with the result that she bled profusely for two days. I would be failing in my duty if I did not impose a sentence that would be a deterrent to others in this case. The sentence of the court is that the accused will go to prison for a period of four years with hard labour.
Accused is informed of his right of appeal.