COMPETENCE AND COMPELLABILITY: IS CHILD EVIDENCE ADMISSIBLE?

ABSTRACT

Determination of lawsuits is highly dependent on these availability of evidence. In law, every person is a competent witness in any judicial proceeding unless otherwise prevented by the law. And every compellable witness is a competent witness as the court will not compel anyone to give evidence, if he is incompetent to do so.

However, it is not every competent witness that is compellable in court. Competence does not imply ‘reliable,’ thus a witness may legally speaking not be able to give evidence for several reasons. For example, the witness may be a child who is too young that he/she cannot understand the questions put to him or give rational answers to them. Compellability on the other hands deals with the question whether as a matter of law, witnesses can be obliged to give evidence when they do not wish to do so but there are some circumstances in which competent witnesses cannot be obliged to give evidence against their will. This long essay therefore aims at analyzing the competency and compellability of a child to give evidence as a witness with respect to how it affects availability and admissibility of evidence.

Chapter one of the long essay which is introductory explains the objectives, focus, extent and limitation of the study as well as the methodology employed in carrying out the research. Chapter two gives an insight as to the elements of the topic by explaining what Competency and Compellability of a witness imply. In chapter three the long essay considers who a child is in law and the conditions for the admissibility of his testimonies. While chapter four sheds light on issues relating to compellability of a child witness and the effect of compelling an incompetent child witness. Lastly, chapter five summarizes the findings of the research and made far reaching recommendations were offered as a forward It is strongly believed that if recommendations made herein are taken seriously and reflected in proposed amendment to the Act, the would go along way in improving the state of the law in that direction.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION (get the full material)

1.1.0: BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

This long essay focuses on competency and compellability of a child to give evidence before Nigerian courts. The meaning, general principles, importance, provisions of the Evidence Act as well as the exceptions to the general rule in Section 155(1) of the Evidence Act2 would be examined.The essay would also explain who a child is in law, the testimony of such a child in civil and criminal proceedings as well as the conditions for the admissibility of such evidence. More importantly, the long essay examines the effects and defects of wrongfully admitting evidence by a child in court.

1.2.0: OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The main reason for venturing into the subject mater of this long essay is to bring out and explain the procedure and practices of the Nigerian courts in relation to the admissibility of child evidence as well as the importance and nature of competence and compellability as in relation to child.

The long essay would also appraise and analyze the role of and what should be the role of the courts in ensuring that the evidence of a child is credible enough to be admitted and the conditions. It is hoped that the reader of the long essay would on careful perusal of the essay appreciate the competence of a child in law.

1.3.0: FOCUS OF STUDY

This long essay explains competency and compellability as regards child evidence and examines the conditions which a child must satisfy before he or she becomes a competent and/or compellable witness in courts of law. The essay focuses mainly on the relevant approaches of the courts as it relates to the competency and compellability of a child and the methods to be adopted.

1.4.0: SCOPE OF STUDY

This long essay is writing basically within the ambit of its title. Chapter one is on the general introduction which includes background of the study, objectives of the study, focus of study, scope of study, research methodology adopted, and review of related literatures as well as definition of terms having peculiar meaning. Chapter two dwells on the definitions and principles relating to competence and compellability, the provisions of the Evidence Act thereon and the exceptions to the general rule.

Chapter three explains the evidence of a child, who child is in law and the conditions for the admissibility of his evidence. Chapter four deals with the implication of uncorroborated evidence of a child, effects of wrongful admission or rejection of a child evidence, the importance of competence and compellability and the negative effects of our court process on the child witness while chapter five dwells on the conclusion and recommendations to strengthen competency and compellability of child evidence before the Nigerian courts.

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