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REX. v. 1 AFOSE & 9 ORS

JELR 81002 (WACA)

West Africa Court of Appeal  •   •  West Africa [For WACA cases]

Coram
Cor. Deane, Webber, C.JJ., and Butler-Lloyd, Acting C.J.

Judgement

 DEANE, C.J., GOLD COAST.

This is a case stated by the learned Chief Justice opinion of the West African Court of Appeal.

In so far as this particular trial is concerned the questions asked are academic since the evidence to which they relate was rejected.

The relevant facts are as follows. A statement was made by one of the accused to a police inspector. This was subsequently read over by the inspector in the presence of two other accused. Those two were not cautioned but said that the statement was correct. It was subsequently read over to others of the accused who were mentioned in it and they said nothing.

The learned Chief Justice pointed out that the procedure adopted was contrary to rule 8 of the rules approved by His Majesty's Judges as applicable to such matters, and the Crown Counsel withdrew the document.

The rule in question is to be found at p. 406 of Archbold 28th Edition and reads as follows:----

When two or more persons are charged with the same offence and statements are taken separately from the persons charged, the police should not read these statements to the other persons charged, but each of such persons should be furnished by the police with a copy of such statements, and nothing should be said or done by the police to invite a reply. If the person charged desires to make a statement in reply the usual caution should be administered.”

The questions upon which our opinion is desired are as follows: --- I. Did I, the presiding Judge, in ruling that the statement made by ninth accused, and subsequently read over to certain others of the accused, was not admissible in evidence against those other accused, give a correct decision in point of law?

II. How, if at all, should rule 8 (already referred to) be modified to suit local conditions where the majority of accused persons are illiterate?

As to the first question we need say no more than that we think the learned Chief Justice's ruling was correct inasmuch as the procedure adopted was clearly in conflict with rule 8.

On the second question it is necessary to consider the objects with which the rule was framed. There are clearly two-first, that an accused person should have notice of a statement made by a co-accused in which he is implicated; second, that such a statement should not be used as a means of entrapping another accused into an unconsidered or hasty admission. Now it is obvious that the first of these objects would not be attained by simply handing an illiterate a copy of a statement which has been made. It must obviously be read to him. But if this is done by the investigating officer the second object will obviously be imperilled.

We think that in order to obviate these difficulties the following proviso should be added to the rule in question: ---Provided that when the person charged is an illiterate the statement may be read over or interpreted to him apart by some person other than a policeman. Anything said to such reader by the person charged when the statement is read shall not be admissible in evidence against him, but if, after the statement has been so read, he shall be desirous of making a statement to the police in reply, such statement shall be taken only after the usual caution has been administered.

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