A proof of evidence serves the purpose of Audi Alteram Partem (Hear the other side).
In a certain criminal matter, which took place in some part of the Eastern Nigeria, between a medical doctor and her patient, the proof of evidence was not served on the accused.
The Purpose of serving an accused with a copy of a Medical report is to notify him of the content of the report, and afford him the opportunity to be aware in advance of its implication and prepare to challenge it in court if there is a need to do so.
Proof of evidence is the irreducible minimum an accused person in any criminal proceedings can get. It is not a privilege but a right of the accused to be served the proofs of evidence in strict compliance with the Law, failing which the proceedings are a nullity.
In order not to spring surprises on the other party, every charge on an indictment must be clear so that the person to be tried will understand the complaint against him.
The Purpose of serving proofs of evidence on an accused person is to give him the opportunity of knowing what the prosecution witnesses state in court.
The proof of evidence shall consist, inter alia, of the names, addresses, and statements of any material witness(es) whom the prosecution does not intend to call; provided that the submission of such names shall not prevent the prosecution from calling any such witness(es) at the trial if the prosecution later so desires. Thus, the particulars of material witnesses, that it intends to call, and the particulars of material witnesses it does not intend to call. And these requirements are to give effect to Section 36(6)of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). See; Section 146 of the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJL),
Section 36(6)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 imposes a duty on the prosecution to prepare and furnish the accused person proof of evidence in strict compliance with the section at the initiation of the information and before the commencement of criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law.
The Supreme Court in Igwe v. State (2022) 1 NWLR (Pt.1810) 111 @ 153-154, paras H-B, stated that;
Proofs of evidence contains statements or abridged statements made extra-judicially to the Police or the investigator by the complainant, witnesses and/or the accused person, which would prima facie sustain the charge or the allegation against the accused person. The essence or purpose of serving proofs of evidence on an accused person is to afford him the opportunity of knowing what the prosecution witnesses intend to say against him in court. [Abacha v. State (2002) 11 NWLR (Pt. 779)437; Amadi v. A.-G., Imo State (2017) 11 NWLR (Pt.1575) 92.
The imperative for the proof of evidence and service on an accused person cannot be overemphasized.
LEGAL TIPS is anchored by Ms CIA Ofoegbunam, an Abuja-based lawyer who is passionate about legal practice.LEGAL TIPS offers quick hints on substantive law, as well as rules of practice and procedure, and serves as a handy reference guide to lawyers, especially in court.Published on a weekly basis, the LEGAL TIPS Series is CIA’s modest contribution to legal development in Nigeria.