When Supreme Court Can Interfere With Concurrent Findings of Lower Courts

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Supreme Court

It is trite that the Supreme Court will hardly interfere with concurrent findings of the lower courts. This position was reiterated by EKO, J.S.C, in his own contribution in this judgment recently delivered by the Supreme Court, when he said “This Court, as a policy, is loathe to intervene and interfere with the concurrent findings of fact made by the trial and intermediate Courts. The exception is, inter alia, when the concurrent findings are perverse.”

UGBOJI V. STATE (2017) LPELR-43427(SC) 

Facts

In summary, the facts of the case are that the appellant herein and five others were charged before the trial High Court sitting in Otukpo and tried on five counts recapitulated as follows:

A. Offences allegedly committed on 18th October, 2001 at Achigili Street, Otukpo-

  1. Conspiracy to commit robbery;
  2. Robbing Salisu Mohammed (Pw.3) of the sum of N10,000.00;
  3. shooting and injuring Salisu Mohammed (PW.3) in the course of robbing him.

B. Offences allegedly committed on 9th September, 2001 at Otia F, Igbanonmaje, Otukpo

  1. Robbing Adakole Ogale (PW. 1) of N3,500.00 at gun point; and
  2. Robbing Stephen Ichakpa (Pw.2) of N6,000.00 at gunpoint

All the accused persons pleaded not guilty to each of the five counts. In the course of the trial, three of the accused were discharged on a no-case submission, leaving Olarewaju Akogwu, Mathias Garuba Idoko and the appellant who was the 3rd accused. They were eventually discharged and acquitted in respect of counts 1, 2 and 3. The trial Court, relying on the accused persons’ extra judicial statement, ruled that the appellant and two other co-accused had a case to answer, as prima facie case was made against them on counts 4 and 5. At the conclusion of the trial, the trial judge, while delivering his judgment, invoked the provisions of Section 216 and 217 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to the effect that a trial Court has the power to convict an accused for any offence disclosed by evidence even though not specifically charged with it. The appellant was subsequently found guilty, convicted and sentenced for conspiracy to commit armed robbery, an offence for which they were not charged.

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Riled by the decision of the trial Court, the appellant herein, appealed to the Court of Appeal, Makurdi Division but his appeal was dismissed by the Court. Still dissatisfied, the appellant has now appealed to the Supreme Court.

Issues for Determination

The issues for determination as distilled by the Court for the just determination of the appeal are:

  1. Whether in the circumstances of this case it was proper to convict the appellant to conspiracy (sic) to commit armed robbery proffered against the appellant.
  2. Whether the prosecution proved the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt as required by law? 

Held

The Court unanimously held the appeal to be meritorious and accordingly, same was allowed. As a corollary, the conviction and sentence passed on the appellant by the trial Court which was affirmed by the lower Court was set aside. Appellant was consequently discharged and acquitted.

Perverse Decision: Instances where the decision of court would be regarded as perverse 

SANUSI, J.S.C. in his leading judgment held that “The learned Justices of the lower Court in my view are/were wrong in affirming the decision of the trial Court when it held that the latter was right in applying the provisions of Section 216 and Section 217 of CPC to convict the appellant without a formal charge framed against him. Such finding is, in my considered view, perverse and erroneous.”

In shedding light on where the decision of court would be regarded as perverse, EKO, J.S.C said “The decision is perverse, if among other things, the Court took into consideration matters extraneous to the facts in issue, or matters which it ought not to have taken into consideration.” He went further to say that “When a Court goes out of the proceedings to import and rely on extraneous matters to predicate its decision on, the natural consequence of this cloister justice is a miscarriage of justice. A decision that occasions a miscarriage of justice is also perverse”.

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Culled: LawPavilion

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