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MYLES JOHN ABBOTT, AG. F.C.J. (Presided)
LIONEL BRETT, F.J. (Read the Judgment of the Court)
LOUIS NWACHUKWU MBANEFO, F.J.
COMMISSIONER OF POLICE (WESTERN REGION)
Mr. FAGBENRO – for the 1st Appellant
Mr. A. ADENZOLA, C. C. – for the Respondent.
CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE:– Charges of obtaining by false pretences, impersonation and conspiracy to defraud – how proved
CHILDREN AND WOMEN LAW: Women in Business – Women in crime – Women as victim of crime – A woman involved in a fraudulent scheme with other men to defraud unsuspecting victims – Role/Evidence of other women in bringing perpetrators to justice
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – EVIDENCE:- Inadmissible evidence – How determined – No case submission – Where such a submission is upheld – Whether it is appropriate to give reasons for it, if only to enable the prosecution to consider exercising any right of appeal it may have – where submission is rejected – whether preferable that no reasons should be given
BRETT, F.J. (Delivering the Judgment of the Court):
The appellants were convicted in the Magistrate’s Court of the Western Region on charges of obtaining by false pretences, personation and conspiracy to defraud. Their appeal to the Western Region High Court was dismissed and they appealed to this Court. At the close of the hearing on the 12th June we dismissed the appeals, and we now give our reasons for doing so.
The chief ground of appeal argued was that inadmissible evidence had been received, tending to show that the first appellant was a person of bad character, or had been guilty of another offence of a different nature. The case for the prosecution was that the first appellant called at the house of Mr. Cole, the person defrauded, accompanied by a man. Mr. Cole was out, but they saw Mrs. Cole, and the first appellant said that the man wanted to borrow £300 from Mr. Cole and to sell his house. She produced a plan which she said was that of the house, and as Mr. Cole was away the visitors left without transacting any business. Some days later the first appellant returned to the house with the second appellant, whom she introduced as Edward Omorodion Asemota, the owner of the house shown on the plan which she produced. In the belief that the second appellant was the owner of the house, and that he was prepared to deposit the plan – apparently as evidence of a mortgage under native law and custom – Mr. Cole lent him £300. When Mrs. Cole pointed out that the second appellant was not the man who had accompanied the first appellant on her previous visit the first appellant said that the two were brothers and that the second appellant was acting on behalf of his brother.
The first witness to whose evidence exception was taken on appeal was one Daniel Oshodi, a half-brother of the first appellant, who was the man who accompanied her on the first visit to Mr. Cole’s house. His account of the interview with Mrs. Cole did not entirely tally with that of Mrs. Cole, but it certainly tended to corroborate it, and we can see no ground for holding that it was inadmissible. The other witness was a woman named Odigie Odiase.
She gave evidence about an interview with a lawyer named Fregene concerning the sum of E32 which Mr. Omorodion, the true owner of the house to which the plan used in the fraud related, had paid to Mr. Fregene on her account although he was not in any way indebted to her. In the course of the interview reference was made to the plan of a house. She further spoke of an occasion when the first appellant told her that she had used the witness’ name in lending money to Mr. Omorodion. Objection might have been taken to the evidence of the interview with Mr. Fregene on the ground that what Mr. Fregene said was hearsay, but the submission made to us was that the whole of the evidence of the witness was unconnected with the offence charged and was designed to show that the first appellant had a tendency to enter into fraudulent loan transactions involving the use of false names, and it was said that it did not fall within the rules permitting evidence of system. The cases of [Elias (1910) 2 K.B. 746 and Slender 26 Cr. App. R. 155], were cited in support of this submission. If the purpose of admitting this witness’ evidence had been as alleged it may well be that we should have held it inadmissible, but the true purpose of her evidence was to corroborate the evidence of Mr. Omorodion as to how the plan came into the possession of the first appellant. It is true that in ruling on the submission of no case the Magistrate said “The evidence of (Odigie Odiase) throws more light on the fraudulent intention of the 1st accused,” but he makes no reference to the evidence of this witness in his judgment, and there has been no complaint of misdirection. After considering the case as a whole we were of the opinion that the inadmissible part of the witness’ evidence was not prejudicial to the first appellant, and we dismissed the appeal.
We would comment on the course taken by the Magistrate in delivering a detailed ruling on the submission of no case. Where such a submission is upheld it is appropriate to give reasons for it, if only to enable the prosecution to consider exercising any right of appeal it may have, but where the submission is rejected we think it in every way preferable that no reasons should be given.