GEPLAW FOCUS: JUDICIAL APPLICATION OF BURDEN OF PROOF VIS A VISTHE DOCTRINE OF LAST SEEN IN CRIMINAL MATTERS

GEPLAW FOCUS: JUDICIAL APPLICATION OF BURDEN OF PROOF VIS A VISTHE DOCTRINE OF LAST SEEN IN CRIMINAL MATTERS


The doctrine of last seen is popular in various jurisdictions around the world today. In Nigeria, this doctrine is mostly used in cases involving murder and manslaughter. The doctrine simply means that the person last seen with a deceased bears full responsibility for his or her death. Thus, where an accused person was the last person to be seen in the company of the deceased and circumstantial evidence is overwhelming and leads to no other conclusion, the person would be held liable for the death of the deceased.
In relying on the doctrine of last seen in Nigeria, the Court would draw inference from the time gap between the point of when the accused and the deceased were last seen together.  The accused who last saw the deceased alive has the burden or duty to give an explanation on how the deceased met his death. In the absence of an explanation, the Court is entitled to infer in the face of overwhelming circumstantial evidence that the accused person killed the deceased.
This report gives an analysis of the application of the burden of proof with regards to the doctrine of last seen in Nigeria, the effects of the use of the doctrine as a tool in meting out capital punishment and the challenges faced in applying the…continue reading