KINGDON, C.J., NIGERIA, PETRIDES, C.J., GOLD COAST AND GRAHAM PAUL C.J., SIERRA LEONE.
Six men named respectively, Anya Ugwuogo, Uka Onu Akano Ebi, Nwagu Otu. Oji Ama and Kama Ugwa, were charged in the High Court of the Enugu-Onitsha Division before Jeffreys, J. sitting at Umuahia with the murder of one Ude Ama. The trial resulted in the conviction of all the accused, subject to the decision of this Court Upon the following case which the learned trial Judge stated in the course of his judgment:-
“CASE STATE “The question to be decided by the West African Court of Appeal “is:- “Was I right in law in admitting the statement of an accused “person in answer to the charge in the following circumstances which “and “I find to be proved:-
“ (a) No inducement was offered, no threat made or force used , “in obtaining the statement and the caution administered followed “the form prescribed in Rule 5 of ‘The Judges’ Rules’ (See “Archbold 29th edition pp. 394, 395) but
“(b) The accused person may not have understood that portion “of the caution, all of which was interpreted to him in an African “dialect, which reads in English You are not obliged to Bay “anything in answer to the charge .”
The learned trial Judge admitted evidence of the nature referred to in the case of each of the accused, and as a result convicted each. If such evidence were held to have been wrongly admitted the case would not be sufficiently strong against any of the accused and each would be entitled to have his conviction quashed.
The so-called “Judges’ Rules’, which lay down inter alia that persons in custody should not be questioned without the usual caution being first administered, are rules of caution laid down by the Judges in England as the procedure to be followed in that highly civilized country. They should be followed, mutatis mutandtis, so far as is possible and practicable in this country. But it would, in our view, be impossible and impracticable to require, in the case of primitive and unintelligent accused, positive evidence not only that the necessary caution was given but also that it had been understood by them before statements voluntarily made could be admitted as evidence.
In England, if a caution is administered, then the person to whom it is administered is presumed to have understood it until the contrary is shown. In our opinion the same principle applied here.
There is nothing to disturb the presumption in this case and the accused do not aver that they did not understand the caution.
What is essential in cases of this nature is that the Court, before admitting the evidence, should be satisfied that the statement was really made voluntarily and was not prompted by any promise or inducement or threat or by actual violence. When the Court cannot be certain that the words of the caution could be understood or were actually understood, the onus upon the Court is all the heavier to be fully satisfied that the statement was really made voluntarily before admitting it. That, in our view, exactly applies to the present case. The learned trial Judge was fully alive to the difficulty, and finding it impossible to be certain that the words of the caution were understood, gave very special attention to the question of whether or not the statements were and others really made voluntarily. He came to the conclusion that they were and consequently admitted them. In our opinion he was right to do so. We accordingly answer the question submitted to us in the affirmative.