Oral Evidence

Introduction to Oral evidence

Except in the cases where it is provided in the Act that certain facts need not be proved, facts in issue and all relevant facts must be proved by evidence; otherwise, a party on whom the onus of proof lies may fail in his claim.
Table of content

  1. Introduction
  2. Evidence of good moral character
  3. Evidence based behavioral intervention

An eloquent and elaborate meaning of what is meant by proof has been give in Blacks Law Dictionary as follows:

“Proof is the logically sufficient reason for assenting to the truth of a proposition advanced. In its juridical sense it is a term of wide import and comprehends everything that may be adduced at a trial, within the legal rules, for the purpose of producing conviction in the mind of the judge or jury, aside from mere argument; that is, everything that has a probative force intrinsically, and not merely as a deduction from, or combination of, original probative facts…

Proof is the perfection of evidence; for without evidence there is no proof, although, there may be evidence which does not amount to proof…

Broadly, we can classify means of proof into four as follows:

  1. Oral evidence
  2. Evidence of good moral character
  3. Documentary evidence
  4. Circumstantial evidence

Circumstantial evidence is here regarded as a separate means of proof (although what many amount to circumstantial evidence may take either, or all of the other means of proof), because it is not evidence of the facts in issue or relevant fact but of circumstances from which those facts may be inferred.
In this article, all that we proposed to do is to briefly examine oral and real evidence as means of proof. See also Similar fact evidence

Evidence of good moral character

Evidence of good character of an accused may be given either by the accused himself, or elicited from the prosecution witnesses through cross-examination, or it may also be obtained through witnesses for the defence.

The utilitarian value of evidence of good character is limited for two reasons. First, for evidence of good character to be of any probative value, it must relate to the offence charged. Accordingly, where the accused person is standing trial for an offence involving dishonesty, the relevant evidence of good character will be on showing that he is an honest person.

Similarly, if the charge is one involving moral turpitude, evidence of good character which will be relevant is one showing the accused to be a person of good moral standing. An illustration of the foregoing is afforded by two old cases.

In R.v. Tumer, where the accused was charged with treason, it was held that evidence of his good character should not be general but limited to his character for loyalty and being peaceful.

Similarly, in R. v. Williamson, a male mid – wife charged with manslaughter was permitted to adduce evidence showing that he was a kind man who had always given skillful attention to women.

Proof by oral evidence

The principal means of proof in legal proceedings in court is oral evidence. Oral evidence, also referred to as testimonial evidence, has been defined as statements and assertions of a witness in court offered as proof of the truth of that which is asserted. By Section 176(1) of the Act, the term oral evidence includes sign and body language given by a witness who is unable to speak.

By section 125 of the Act, it is provided that, “all facts, except the contents of documents, may be proved by oral evidence”.
Section 126 requires that oral evidence must be direct which is why it states that “oral evidence must, in all cases whatever, be direct-

  • If it refers to a fact which could be seen, it must be the evidence of a witness who says he saw that fact;
  • If it refers to a fact which could be heard, it must be the evidence of a witness who says he heard that fact;
  • If it refers to a fact which could be perceived by other sense or in any other manner; it must be evidence of a witness who says he perceived that fact by that sense or in that manner;
  • If it refers to an opinion or to the grounds on which that opinion is held, it must be the evidence of the person who holds that opinion on those grounds.

Evidence based behavioral intervention – Oral Evidence

Real evidence has been defined to mean “material objects other than documents produced for inspection by the court”. It has also been defined as “anything other than a document, which is examined by the tribunal as a means of proof”…and this may include

  1. (1) Material objects, other than those deemed to be documents, produced for examination by the tribunal;
  2. The physical appearance and demeanor or witnesses when in court and of other persons and animals present in the court or its precincts for such examination; and
  3. Any place or thing which is lawfully examined by the tribunal out of court”.

Clearly, therefore, real evidence related to material objects which is examined by the court as a means of proof. It is for this reason that it has been said that “things are the principal item of real evidence”.

Examples of real evidence will include objects like matchet, machine, television monitor, and real property.

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