Abolish trial within trial, SAN says
A senior lawyer, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), yesterday called for the abolition of the ‘trial within trial’ system of determining the value of confessional statements in Nigerian criminal justice system, saying that the system has no basis in the Evidence Act.He also said that it is one of the major causes of delay in criminal trials.
“Trial within trial being foreign to our existing non-jury system law and having contributed immensely to the delay in justice delivery in criminal matters ought not to be conducted anymore in our legal system,’’ he said.
Rather, Pinheiro advocates that extraction of statements should be taken away from the police, and given to Magistrates or other judicial officers who must not only study the demeanor of a defendant, but also ensures that defendants are completely free while making the statement voluntarily.
This way, controversies surrounding confessional statements will be completely eradicated.He said that trial judges should then be entitled to from the totality of the evidence led by parties, deliver judgments and expunge the confessional statement from their records, where found to be involuntarily made and, or act on same if found to be voluntarily made.
Pinheiro made this call in a 40 page paper he delivered at the Lagos State Judiciary 2019/2020 Legal Year Stakeholder’s Summit, titled “The admissibility of confessional Statements: Imperatives of trial within trial” at the City Hall, Lagos on September 24.
He argued that Section 29 (2) (a) – (b) of the Evidence Act, 2011 which governs admissibility of confessional statements and sets out the circumstances under which statements qualify as confessions will be admitted.
“Curiously, and interestingly Section 29, as with any other section of the entire Evidence Act makes no mention of the phrase “trial within trial”. “I make bold to say that the phrase does not exist in our statutory lexicon. Rather it is a practice that has evolved over time to test the voluntariness of a statement qualifying as a confession”.