Judicial Attitude To Homicide In Nigeria
Criminal Law in Nigeria is so wide that it applies to a wide range of crimes. a crime is and actatute or by the Common Law to be a public wrong and is therefore punishable by the state in Criminal proceeding. The crime of homicide which can be divided into two namely, lawful homicide which is a division of homicide justified or excused by law and they are self defence, suppression of riot, defence of property etc. unlawful homicide is prohibited by law with very stiff punishment melted out to its offenders.
Unlawful homicide could be either murder or manslaughter, murder is an intentional killing of and human being and its carries a severe punishment of a sentence to death while manslaughter is an unintentional killing of another which must have been through provocation, negligence, causation, omission etc. and its carries a sentence of life imprisonment.the actus reus and mens rea of a crime must be proven before and accused can be convicted, the burden of proving that the accused committed the crime is on the prosecution and it never shifts. This study will be narrowed down to homicide generally ,the problems facing in the proving of guilt of an accused person by the prosecution and solutions will be proferred.
- Chapter one, general introduction to the whole will be discussed.
- The second chapter unearths the different definition of crime by different jurists and legal writers,ts and legal writers, it will discuss the burden of prove in Criminal Cases,and the ingredients that constitute crime.
- Chapter three discusses extensively the critical and general overview of the meaning of homicide, under which lawful and unlawful would be discussed.
- Chapter four espouses the main aim of this study where the judicial trend of Courts will be discussed, also the origin and meaning of punishment, enforcement of homicide laws, punishment for crime of homicide will be discussed.
- The fifth chapter closes with the summary of the whole study, Recommendation would have been made towards the advancement of Criminal Law through the provisions of both the criminal code and the penal code.
The Nigerian Criminal law is essentially contained in two codes, the Criminal Code operating in the southern part and the Penal Code operating in the Northern part of Nigeria.
Although, the Criminal Code and the Penal Code contains the bulk of the Criminal law of Nigeria and it’s the general principles, there are nevertheless, a large number of other enactments which create offences. These consist of Acts, Ordinances, Laws, Regulations, and Bye laws. A general observation which has to be is that, in the absence of specific provisions to the contrary in each statute, the general principles in the Criminal Code and Penal Code are made use of in interpreting such other statutes.
However, what makes homicide unique are, among other crimes, the uniqueness of causing personal injuries and destruction of properties are irreversible harms, causing death is a harm of different order. Killing another human being is not only a worldly deprivation, in the western assault on the sacred natural order.
Though we are inclined to think of homicide as merely the deprivation of secular interest, the historical background of desecration is essential to an adequate understanding. For example, consent is not a defence to homicide and destruction of property. The reason being that the religion conception of human life still prevails against the modern view that life is an interest that the bearer can dispose at will.
There are three prominent starting places for thinking about criminal liability. In the pattern of manifest criminality, the point of departure is an act that threatens the peace and order of the community life. In the theory of subjective criminality, the starting point is the actor’s intent to violate a protected legal interest. In the law of homicide the focal point is neither the act nor the intent, but the fact of death.
From this central point, the perspective is who can be held accountable, and in what way for the discretion of the human and divine realm. The question is never where to place the point of the legal compass, but how should the person being brought in to stand responsible for the death that has already occurred.
1.1.0: Background to the Study
Crime has been defined as acts or omission which renders the person doing the act or making the omission liable to punishment. It can also be defined as an act which is illegal or an illegal omission to act, there is legal obligation to act. Homicide is an heinous crime, which have been regarded as a grave offence from the earliest times.
It is often said that the cardinal principle of Criminal Law especially as it affects homicide generally is the maxim… Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea meaning an act does not make a person legally guilty unless the mind is legally blameworthy , this principle is applicable in Nigeria. The concurrence of Actus reus and Mens rea in the proof of homicide is very important.
However, the proof of mens rea (intention) has become so technical over the years that though a person accused of an offence must have had a malicious or guilty mind.
At same time the mind need not be malicious in the conventional sense.
1.2.0: Objectives of the Study
The crime homicide has become a thing of daily call in the Nigerian Courts, which calls for proper attention considering decided cases which shows the rigidity of the proof of homicide, which needs to be loosed i.e. made less rigid. Once the act (actus reus) can be proven this should be enough to convict the accused except in cases of defence of property and other defences available under lawful homicides.
The sentence for murder in Nigeria needs urgent attention especially in the aspect of death penalty because the taking of life of the person who did the act does not bring back the deceased to life, more viable punishments must be adopted.
1.3.0: Focus of the Study
The focus of this study is how the Courts treat homicide cases generally, the definition of homicide. However, this research focuses on the effectiveness of Courts in deciding cases of homicide brought before them. Also how the Courts can improve on deciding cases pertaining to homicide i.e. the Criminal Justice System in Nigeria.
1.4.0: Scope of the Study
The scope of this study covers homicide cases, the elements that constitutes, homicide the sections that that generally governs homicide, what distinguishes murder from manslaughter.
The views of jurists and learned personalities with their points and criticisms been noted with regard to past cases, and finally the Court’s opinion on homicide cases will also be reviewed and extensively discussed.
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Murder, which is the heinous form of homicide, carries the severest penalty of capital punishment. The philosophy is that since man does not and can not give life, then it becomes unlawful and inhuman to do away with life which he does not give and can not replace.
As long as murder is retained as a separate crime, it must be resolved for the ‘worst’ the most ‘reprehensible killings’. Emotive such as those involving criteria of derivative of or wantonness must be rejected. Judgement must relate to man’s actions not to man himself.
Submissively, the test of ‘worst’ or most ‘reprehensible’ can be determined by the reference to current community values as to which killings are ethically blameworthy.
Distinguishing murder from manslaughter is so different at task that we ought to abandon the effort and simply merge the two crimes.
The ultimate goal in any Criminal Procedure is to obtain conviction of the offender. It is in this wise that the administration of Criminal Justice System must be reformed in the area of homicide cases. The reformation of the Criminal Justice System is essential to the enforcement of the Statutory Codes on homicides.
Actus reus and mens rea should not be proved separately. Actus reus is easy to prove while men rea (intention) is highly technical as the common saying goes,
‘Only God knows the heart of a man’
According Shakespeare in popular drama ‘Macbeth ’, where he said,
‘There is no act to find the mind’s construction in the face’. This means there is no skill (art) by which one can find the construction of a person’s mind on his face. It is impossible to look into a man’s face and know what he is thinking.
My submission is that the requirement for the proof of homicide should be made less rigid, once an accused person can prove actus reus, it should be enough to get him convicted. But and exception to this proposition is if it is as a result of self defence the murder was committed. It is also pertinent to note that most accused persons commit murder with intention (mens rea) but they go under the guise of available defences. The concurrence of actus reus and mens rea should not be used as a litmus test in determining the guilt of and accused person. This will go a long way in reducing the number of accused person who go unpunished.
Another important point that must be noted is the issue of death penalty as provided for Section 221 of Penal Code and Section 329 Criminal Code which is the sentence applied in murder cases. The society we live in is constantly changing; therefore, our laws must reflect his phenomenon. Capital punishment as championed by human rights institutions is becoming obsolete because it has proven not to be an effective antidote to halt the crime of homicide in our society. Our laws must seek more viable alternative sentencing to the crime of homicide, other than death sentence.
Judges, magistrates and all persons who have the responsibility of pronouncing the guilt or otherwise of accused persons must embrace new approaches of taking evidences in trial process, this will expedite quick justice delivery.
Since the Courts is the last hope of the common man, the door of its temple must be widely opened and the Courts must ascertain that before an accused is convicted and sentenced in homicide cases. The Courts must be convinced beyond every reasonable doubt that he committed the crime and that the accused is not denied his right to prosecute his appeal to the last stage.
The investigations made by the Police on must occasions are not always correct, and this will cause the Courts to make erroneous judgements on the part of the accused. In light of this the persons who perpetrated the evil who walk on the streets like every free man who should have been behind the bars. Homicide cases should be transferred to the legal department of the Police Force where the lawyers and the paralegals who are experts in this field should handle investigations on homicide cases in order to avoid erroneous judgements to be passed by the Courts.
The corrupt practices of the Police have made it impossible for some crimes to get to the Courts, either through knowing people in high places or through bribe. This has become the order of the day in Nigerian Police stations and has caused hindrances in bringing Criminals to book. When crimes are committed, the people who have been aggrieved should pursue the cases in ways that such crimes would not be swept under the carpet by publicizing through the media.
Finally, the slow deciding way of the Courts has affected trial cases where even the accused persons would have died before the final judgement is made even if he is later found to be innocent. As the saying goes ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. The Courts should adopt new methods in order to hasten up trials, instead of elongating it to unbearable years especially on the parts of people who are later declared innocents of the crimes they are been accused of.