One thing which an advocate would be forced to acknowledge very early in practice is the Omnipotence of the Law of evidence. An advocate must realize how important it is for him to be conversant with the provisions of the Evidence Act and learn its sections with good understanding. In the Court of law, the facts of the case and the documentary evidence in support armed by an advocate may be quite convincing and undisputable, yet, all of them may fail or get the case to nowhere if the advocate fails to successfully placed them before the Court.
During Examination-in-chief, an advocate might earn an objection from his more experienced Learned friend on the other side if he is not conversant with the rules of evidence regulating Examination-in-chief. An advocate very first question to his witness might earn an objection like ” My Lord, I object to this question, it is clearly leading”. While the advocate is struggling to understand what could be wrong with the question, My Lord might worsens the situation by stamping the objection with the authority ” Objection is upheld, Counsel (the examiner) will you please keep within the provisions of the Evidence Act, No leading question, Please “.
The advocate moved on and reframed the question, Your learned friend on the other side up on his feet again and says ” My Lord, surely this question is even more leading than the first, I must object again” Before the advocate could reply, the judge again stamps the objection with official approval. At this point, the advocate is beginning to be worked up to unjustifiable anger, frustrated and dismayed.
The Evidence Act made provisions for statements which the court may receive from a witness, and restricts same to those which are relevant and admissible. SEE SECTION 1 OF THE EVIDENCE ACT, 2011, ORLU V. GOGO-ABITE(2010) 8 NWLR (PT 1196) 307 AT 339.
More so, the Evidence Act also lays down rules as to how to invite evidence from a witness, who should testify and among others. Thus, a fact which is both relevant and admissible maybe disallowed because it was not properly invited. In other words, an advocate must learn how to bring a lawful evidence by lawful means and in a lawful way. For instance, if an advocate fails to lay a proper foundation necessary for his witness to refresh his memory from notes, objections might be upheld pursuant to Section 239 of the Evidence Act, 2011.
There are certain words and expressions which an advocate always come across on the course of his practice as far as evidence is concerned. These expressions include Burden of Proof, Relevancy, Admissibility, Probative Value, Standard of Proof, Hearsay, Competency, Compellability, Evidence of Character, Admission, Confession and among others. These expressions are fundamentals in Evidence and Advocacy. A good grip of them is a sine qua non for successful advocacy. Without a sound knowledge of them, an advocate might be found wanting in law practice.
Finally, the Law of Evidence is one of the most important and certainly the most frequent use of the enactments which an Advocate needs during trials. An advocate must be aware of the different forms in which evidence may be presented at trials, because, unless you recognize the proper way of offering evidence at trials, an advocate may be faced with comprehensive list of unforseen and unforeseeable objections in court.