This week I would be taking you down the stream of criminal practice and procedure where we would be talking about what the term, NO CASE SUBMISSION means.
WHAT IS A PLEA OF NO CASE SUBMISSION?
In a criminal litigation, the prosecution is required by law to not only prove the commission of the crime but also to prove the essential ingredients and to link the accused person to the said offence. By the provision of S.135 of the Evidence Act the burden is always on the prosecution to prove the ingredients beyond reasonable doubt.
In IBERI V. A.G FEDERATION(2014) 5NWLR (PT1401) it was held that
“It is not for the accused person to prove his innocence. The burden is on the prosecution to establish the case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt. By proof beyond reasonable doubt it is intended that a prima facie case must be made out by the prosecution against the accused”.
The Court went further by explaining what a prima facie case means, when it held thus:
“A prima facie case connotes the existence of evidence which is sufficient enough to support the allegation made and would be regarded as having been made in the absence of further evidence in rebuttal of same.”
Therefore, failure on the part of the prosecution to establish the said ingredients will be fatal to its case by which the accused may raise a no case submission.
The basic authority where a plea of No case submission is premised are section 286 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA); section 191(3) and (5) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), and section 243 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL).
Section 286 of the CPA provides thus –
“If at the close of the evidence in support of the charge it appears to the court that a case is not made out against the defendant sufficiently to require him to make a defence, the court shall, as to the particular charge, discharge him”.
It is instructive to refer to the case of ODIDO V. STATE(1995) 1 NWLR (PT. 369) 88 where the court observed that the mere use of the words –“if it appears” in section 286 of the Criminal
Procedure Act does not entitle a judge to say that it does not appear to him where the prosecution has not made out a case against the accused to answer. The case so made must also be “sufficient” to require the accused to make a defence. It is therefore, not sufficient that there has been a casual reference to the accused. The case of the prosecution must be cogent to require the accused to further deny the accusation.
It is only after the foregoing requirement has been met that the court would hold that a case has been made out for the accused to answer and call upon him to make his defence.
In the same vein, Section 191(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code provides thus;
“Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (2), the court may after hearing the evidence for the prosecution if it considers that the evidence against the accused or any of several accused is not sufficient to justify the continuation of the trial, record a finding of not guilty in respect of such accused without calling upon him or them to enter upon the defence and such accused shall thereupon be discharged and the court shall then call upon the remaining accused, if any, to enter upon the defence”.
In AJULUCHUKWU v. STATE (2014) 13 (PT1425), it was held by the supreme court that:
“A submission of no-case to answer by an accused person means that even if the court believes the evidence adduced so far by the prosecution, there is no sufficient material on which the court can convict_.” This goes to show that although the prosecution has adduced evidence in discharging the burden placed on it, the evidence adduced are not sufficient to convict the accused before any reasonable judge or tribunal.
WHEN A NO CASE SUBMISSION CAN BE RAISED/MADE
The court in AJULUCHUKWU V. STATE (Supra) and DEBOH V STATE (1977) 5SC197 unambiguously stated that a plea of no case submission can be raised where there has been, throughout the trial, no legally admissible evidence at all against the accused person on behalf of whom the submission has been made to link him in any way with the commission of the offence with which he has been charged which would necessitate his being called upon for his defense or that whatever evidence there was, which might have linked the accused person with the alleged offence has been so discredited, particularly under cross examination of the prosecution witness, that no reasonable court would can be called upon to act on such evidence as establishing criminal guilt in the accused person.
Basically, therefore, a plea of no case submission can only be successfully raised where the prosecution has failed to prove the essential elements of the offence the accused is charged with. In the alternative, it could be raised where although the prosecution has called witnesses to prove the offence, the testimonies of the witnesses have been so discredited by the defence under cross examination and rendered unreliable to such an extent that no reasonable tribunal could safely convict on it. See the cases of UBANATU V C.O.P (2000) 1 SCNJ 50; EMEDO V STATE (2002) 15NWLR(PT. 789) 196
THE EFFECT OF A NO CASE SUBMISSION
If after the argument of the defence, it is the conclusion of the Judge that the Plea of No case submission succeeds, an order of discharge is to be made by the court. This order, however, will be equivalent to an acquittal as enshrined under the provisions of S.301(1) Criminal Procedure Code S.191(5) Criminal Procedure Code and the cases of NWALI v. IGP (1956) 1 E.N.R. NLR 1, IGP V. MARK(1957) 2 F.S.C 5 among others
Therefore when a no case submission is successfully raised the court is bound to discharge and acquit the accused person from the offence charged with. The only option open to the prosecution, therefore, would be to go on an appeal to a superior court.
In conclusion, it is important to point out that prosecution counsels should always endeavor to do their homework very well before instituting a criminal case in court because of the propensity of raising a no case submission and succeeding. It is also important to note that should a no case submission fail, the next step is for the defense to open their case.
ISIAKA, AZEEZ AYINDE, 300LEVEL COMBINED LAW, UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN
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