Grand Master - , 11:08 am On 10 Oct 2017
Imagine a young woman standing on the side of a main road. She sees some commotion across the street. She sees an old man and hears him shout 'The bank is being robbed!' as a young man runs out of a building and away down the street.
The old man is never found (and so cannot appear in court to repeat what he said), but the woman repeats what she heard him say.
Ordinarily, the statement would have been rejected as hearsay, the law however considers such statement to be more reliable than mere hearsay because it was made spontaneously and it is contemporaneous with the act; and thus it may receive it as res gesta.
WHAT IS RES GESTA?
Res Gestae of a crime includes all acts and statements, done or spoken that are so closely connected to an event that they are considered part of the event.
Section 4 of the Evidence Act states that 'facts which though not in issue, are so connected with a fact in issue as to form part of the same transaction, are relevant, whether they occurred at the same time and place or at different times and places.
This provision sufficiently covers what was known as res gesta at common law. However, the provision is silent as to the reception of statement which form part of res gesta, so it is safe to assume that the common law position still holds.
Here, we shall discuss the reception of statement forming part of res gesta.
As a general rule, hearsay evidence is not acceptable in court. One of the exception to this rule is statement forming part of res gesta.
For a statement to be received as res gesta, it must be:
1. Contemporaneous: The means that the statement must be closely related to the act it seeks to explain in time and place.
In R v. Teper (1952) AC 480 at 487, the statement was rejected because it was made more than 26 minutes after the fire started, hence it failed the test of contemporaneity.
In Bang Weyeku (1943) 9 WACA 195, the statement of the deceased made in the absence of the accused but shortly after the deceased had been stabbed that “Bang has killed me”, was held admissible as Res Gestae by reason of it being made an appreciable time after the actual wound was inflicted.
Also, in Sunday Akpan V. The State (1967) NMLR 185, the statement made by the decease “Sunday has killed me” was held admissible as part of the Res Gestae.
2. The statement must explain or accompany the fact in issue; not prior or subsequent or disconnected facts. see Agassiz v. London Tramway Co (1873). If the statement is about past events or unconnected events it will not be admissible.
In Agassiz V. Lundun Tramway Co. (1873) it was held that the statements were inadmissible as it did not relate to the collision but to the past acts of the driver.
3. The statement or declaration must be made either by the actor or the victim. This is especially so in criminal cases. In Okokor v. The State (1969) NMLR 140 and Sunday Akpan v. The State (1967) NMLR 185, the statements admitted as forming part of the res gestae in those cases were made by the victims/the deceased.
However, exclamation of a by-stander may be received as res qestae as was done in Miline v. Leister (1862) 7 H&N 786.
READ FURTHER: Sule Salawu v. State (1971) 1 NMLR 249, Oyename v. Oyedele (1957) LLR 37.