GENERAL INTRODUCTION OF THE LAW OF EVIDENCE

     One of the legacies of imperialism is the adoption of the adversarial system of adjudication. Here, judges are not allowed to descend into the arena. It is opposed to the inquisitorial/inquisitional system where judges are allowed to seek for and give evidence. The inquisitorial system is practiced in France.
     Substantive law and the law of evidence are co-joined. They can be said to be Siamese twins. Presentation of evidence is key to the successful outcome of a case/suit. No matter how gifted a lawyer is, he needs the sacrosanct rules of evidence. Evidence has been described as the heartbeat of the law. Thus, Substantive law cannot operate in vacuum, it must be ‘mixed’ with evidence. The combined effect of the proper mixing of evidence with substantive law leads to the success of most suits. Evidence is important in civil and criminal matters.

     Evidence can’t be easily defined. However, a number of scholars have attempted to give a precise definition of 'evidence'. Some of these definitions are worth considering.

1. Phipson:
“Evidence, in the first sense means the testimony, whether oral, documentary or real, which may be legally received in order to prove or disprove some fact in dispute.”
The above definition has been criticized for being restrictive and limited in scope since the definition does not take into consideration, electronically generated evidence, tape recording and sky-writing.

2. Cross:
“Evidence is defined as the testimony, hearing and document which the court of law will accept as evidence of a fact-in-issue.”
The major shortcoming of the above definition is that it does not take into account inadmissible evidence and facts in disproof of facts in issue. What are these?

3. Nokes:
“Facts which are legally admissible and the legal means of attempting to prove such facts.”
The main shortcoming of this definition is that it didn’t take cognizance of the fact that the court can admit illegally obtained evidence. By virtue of sections 14 and 15 of the Evidence Act 2011, improperly obtained evidence are admissible in court unless the court is convinced that the desirability of admitting such evidence is outweighed by the undesirability.

4. Aguda:
            Evidence is the means by which facts are proved but excluding inferences and arguments.
            Inferences are necessarily part of evidence. For example, the court is empowered to infer the intention of a person from the nature of his action. Thus, where a person is found in possession of an item soon after the theft, the courts can infer the person is the thief. This invalidates Aguda’s definition. Furthermore, S. 28 Evidence Act makes inferences part and parcel of confession.

5. Judicial definition:
            In Onya v Ogbuji, the court defined ‘Evidence’ as any specie of proof or probative matter legally presented at the trial by the parties and through the medium of witnesses, records, documents, exhibits, concrete objects, etc. for the purpose of inducing belief in the mind of the court or jury as to their contentions.

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