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Present: Branch C. J.
WEERAKOON v. RANHAMY et al,
38, 38 A—P. C. Kalutara, 13,216.
Confession—Statement to Police Vidane—Inference of guilt—EvidenceOrdinance, ss. 17 and 25,
A statement made by an accused person to a police officer isinadmissible where it would have the effect of bringing the chargehome to the accused or of strengthening the case for the prose-cution.
PPEAL from a conviction by the Police Magistrate ofKalutara. The facts appear from the judgment:—
J. S. Jayewardene, for appellants.
February 24, 1926, Branch C.J.—
* In this case the first accused was convicted of voluntarily causinghurt, and the second accused was convicted of aiding and abettingthe commission of the offence. I am asked to set aside the convic-tion and to order a new trial on the ground that inadmissibleevidence was received against the accused. The most importantpiece of evidence objected to was that given by the Police Vidanein his examination-in-chief. After relating the story told him bythe injured man, Aron, the Police Vidane continued : “ The accuseddenied the cutting. They said that Aron went to take the knifefrom his father and got cut accidently.” The Police Vidane wasthe first witness called, and after his evidence had been taken thecharge was framed against the accused. On the charge being readto the accused they made statements, and substantially their casewas the same as that set out in the Police Vidane’s evidence.
Section 25 of the Evidence Ordinance is as follows: “ Noconfession made to a police officer shall be proved as against aperson accused of any offence.” By section 17 (1) an admissionis defined to be “ a statement, oral or documentary, which suggestsany inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact, and which ismade by any of the persons and under the circumstances hereinaftermentioned.” By the next sub-section a confession is defined as“ an admission made at any time by a person accused of an offencestating or suggesting the inference that he has committed thatoffence.”
The evidence as set out above given by the Police Vidane was,
I think, inadmissible. It placed the accused on the spot and gavewhat was stated to be their explanation of how the wound was
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inflicted, an explanation which may have created an unfavourableimpression on the mind of the Magistrate. I do not think thattheir subsequent statements to the Magistrate avoid the resultthat should in a case like the present follow the admission of thisevidence. It may be that nothing said by the Police Vidaneinfluenced the accused as regards the nature of the defence set upby them, but I cannot say this with certainty. It is possible thatthe accused may have desired in the first instance to prove analibi or give some other account of the matter, but after hearingthe evidence of the Police Vidane they thought it useless to doanything else but accept his evidence and so fashioned their defencethereon. The legislature desired to prevent the reception of anyevidence by police officers as to statements made, to them byaccused persons which would either bring home the charge to theaccused or strengthen the case for the prosecution and full effectmust be given to that intention. In Appuhamy v. Palis1 WoodRenton C.J. set aside the Conviction in a case where the accusedwas charged with dishonestly retaining a stolen sledge -hammerbelonging to his employer, and the Magistrate admitted in evidencea statement said to have been made by the accused to a constableto the effect that he had bought the hammer that morning. “ Itwas for the accused,” said the learned Chief Justice, “ to explainhis possession. But it was not for the police constable to putbefore the court any explanation of it that the accused may havegiven to him … .If the accused wished to offer his
explanation he should have been left to do so himself.”In King v. Kalubanda- the accused was charged with voluntarilycausing grievous hurt to one Bulahamy, and he set up the defencethat he was acting in self-defence. The prosecution led evidencethat the accused had made a certain statement to a police officer,but that in that statement he had not charged Bulahamy withhaving attacked or threatened him. Lascelles C.J. held thatthis evidence was inadmissible and that it was in substance -aconfession by the accused.
It may easily happen that the evidence of a police officer as to-statements made to him by accused persons may at the commence-ment of the trial appear entirely innocuous, but during its subsequentcourse that evidence may clinch a charge against the accusedor it may influence a man in setting up a defence which cannot besustained. There can be no doubt as to the kind of mischief theenactment seeks to avoid, and I do not understand why in theface of the numerous Ceylon decisions on the point statements ofthe nature of the present one made to police officers by accusedpersons are not infrequently admitted in evidence. It may bethat the lower courts occasionally follow some of the Indiandecisions in which a distinction which is not permissible in Ceylon1 4 C. W. R. 355.2 (1912) IS N. L. R. 422.
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has been drawn between admissions and confessions. See, forinstance, The Qu&en v. McDonald1 followed in the Empress v.Dates Pershad * In construing the section corresponding tosection 25 of the Ceylon Evidence Ordinance certain later Indiancases seem to read " confession ” in a less strict technical sense,but however this may be, The Queen v. McDonald (supra) and similarcases have not been followed here. See in this connection theremarks of Pereira J. at page 427 of King v. Kalubanda (supra) andcompare Appuhamy v. Palis (supra) with Empress v. MahmedMahir.* Any relaxation of the strictness with which statementssuch as those now in question have been excluded in Ceylon would,I think, be followed by abuses which the Legislature intended toguard against.
The conviction and sentence are set aside, and the case sent backfor a new trial before another Magistrate.