It is not in dispute that for a prosecution to secure a conviction on an accused person, it must prove the same beyond reasonable doubt; and a conviction falls squarely within the definition of the word “decision”. It is an act of a court of competent jurisdiction adjudging a person to be guilty of a punishable offence, and is nonetheless a conviction even where the ensuing penalty is not imprisonment nor fine but the finding of sureties for good behavior.
The requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt is not tantamount to the prosecution being expected to prove any criminal offence as absolute proof beyond reasonable doubt. It is not proof beyond all iota of doubt or proof to the hilt because it is unknown to law. Rather, what is required is proof beyond reasonable doubt. See; Banjo v. State (2013) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1381) 455; and Onakoya v. F.R.N. (2002) 11 NWLR (Pt. 779) 595.
Thus, proof beyond reasonable doubt does not however mean proof beyond the shadow of doubt. In a criminal trial what the prosecution is expected to prove in order to succeed is to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and no more. The prosecution is expected to prove the commission of an offence with the certainty of the law; that is, that an offence was committed and that no other person other than the accused person committed the offence, then it has established its case beyond reasonable doubt.
The Supreme Court in Sunday v. State (2021) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1800) 411 at 442 paras B-F, held;
“In a criminal trial, the prosecution is expected to establish the charge on proof beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt means the establishment of all the ingredients of the offence charged in tandem with the dictates of section 138 of the Evidence Act and section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). There is no burden on the prosecution to prove its case beyond all doubt. The burden is to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt with emphasis on reasonable doubt. Not all doubts are reasonable. Reasonable doubt will automatically exclude unreasonable doubt, fanciful doubt and speculative doubt, a doubt borne out by the circumstance of the case.”
See also, Nyame v. F.R.N. (2021) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1772) 289 SC; and Smart v. State, (2016) 9 NWLR (Pt 1518) 447 at 479-480, paras G-B.
It simply means establishing the guilt of the accused person with compelling and conclusive evidence. The burden to prove a criminal offence beyond reasonable doubt is discharged when the prosecution proves the ingredients of the charge beyond reasonable doubt.