Scope of the Evidence Law has been admirably stated by professor Noakes as consisting of:
- “facts which are legally admissible; and
- The legal means of attempting to prove such facts.”
Accordingly, when we talk of judicial evidence, we are referring to the vehicle, that is, the means by which facts are proved in court. Thus the law of evidence determines what facts may or may not be proved, the sort of evidence which may be given in proof of a fact, and the person and manner in which the evidence may be produced and by which any fact is to be proved. Michael Hirst brilliantly captured the functions of the law of evidence as follows:
The law of evidence encompasses rather broader functions. It includes regulating the means and methods by which facts may be proved to the satisfaction of the court; it allocates burden of proof as between the parties and it prescribes the standard of proof which a court must require before it can make a finding on a given issue. The law of evidence also includes in its broader compass rules prescribing the relative functions of and evaluation of evidence.
It is considered expedient to state here what is meant by “facts” and “proof of facts” since we have stated that evidence deals with facts and their proof.
According to Section 258(1), which is the definition section of the Evidence Act, a fact is defined to include:
- Anything, state of things, or relation of things, capable of being perceived by the senses; and
Any mental condition of which any person is conscious.
What is meant by proof of fact is provided in S. 121 which is a reproduction of S. 2(2) of the repealed Act as follows:
A fact is:
- “Proved” when after considering the matters before it, the court either believes it to exist or considers its existence so probable that a prudent man ought, in the circumstances of the particular case, to act upon the supposition that it does exist;
- “Disproved” when after considering the matter before it, the court either believes that it does not exist or considered its non-existence so probable that a prudent man ought, in the circumstances of the particular case, to act upon the supposition that it does not exist;
- “Not proved” when it is neither proved nor disproved.
Perhaps it is essential to mention in conclusion of these introductory matters that, opinions, inferences and arguments do not, strictly speaking, fall within the purview of the law of evidence. Even where opinion evidence is admissible in evidence, it does not take the place of fact, which is the primary means by which a case may be established.
See also:- Law of Evidence; Mischief Rule; Golden Rule; Literal Rule; Statutory Interpretation; Maxims of Equity; Equity; Common Law; Received English Law; Doctrine of Covering the field; Sources of Nigeria Law.
Sources of Nigeria Law of Evidence
Like every other aspect of the law, the law of evidence derives from certain sources. The following are the sources of the Nigerian Law of Evidence.
- The Evidence Act
- The Constitution
- Regulations made by the Attorney General
- Judicial Decisions and Opinions of Jurists.
- The English Common Law
- Local Statutes
Scope of the Evidence Law . Scope of the Evidence Law .