The evidence Act does not define corroboration. But the term refers to evidence which supports some other evidence that an accused has committed the offence with which he is being charged. It is evidence which is relevant, admissible, and credible and independent and which implicates the accused person in a material particular. And this is definition given by Keane in his book, The Modern Law of Evidence, 1994 Edition
In the case of DPP v Kilbourne 91973) 1 ALL ER 440; (1973) AC 720, Lord Reid asserts that ‘there is nothing technical in the idea of corroboration when in the ordinary affairs of life one is doubtful whether or not to believe a particular statement. One naturally looks to see whether it fits in with other statements or circumstances relating to the statement. The
better it fits in, the more one is inclined to believe it. The doubted statement is corroborated to a greater or lesser extent by the other statements or circumstances with which it fits in.”
And he goes on to say that, “Any risk of conviction of an innocent person is lessened if conviction is based upon the test of more than one acceptable witness.
Essentially what all we are trying to do here is to define what corroboration is. And we are saying that it is evidence which is offered to strengthen other evidence. And all these things we are saying about it fitting in with others are basically fortifying that statement. And the reason that you would need fortification for evidence is if that particular evidence is given in dubious circumstances or it is given by a category of witnesses who may not be very creditworthy. And basically that is just the context within which we discussing this issue.
What were the facts in the DPP v Kilbourne? And this will help us to see instances in which the need for corroboration might arise. The respondent was convicted of one offence of buggery, another offence of attempted buggery and five counts of indecent assault on two groups of boys. The first four counts related to offences in 1970 and it was with regard to one group of boys and the second set, that is the three others, were committed in 1971 against a second group of boys. The defence put forward was one of innocent association. In essence what the accused was saying is that he didn’t indecently assault the boys; he didn’t behave towards them in an untoward manner, that he innocently associated with them.
The judge directed the jury that they would be entitled to take the uncorroborated evidence of the second group of boys if they were satisfied that the boys were speaking the truth as supporting evidence given by the first group of boys. So here you have two sets of evidence. The one set given by one group of boys. Remember we said that offence was committed in 1970, the other one in 1971. An what the judge is telling the jury here is that if they are convinced that the second group of boys are telling the truth, then they can use that evidence to support the evidence that was given by the first group of boys. In essence that the evidence of the second group of boys could corroborate the evidence of the first group of boys.
The accused was convicted. The Court of Appeal however quashed the conviction and the
matter went to the House of Lords. And the House of Lords held that the judge’s direction was proper and the respondent was properly convicted since the sworn evidence of a child victim could be corroborated by evidence of another child victim of alleged similar misconduct. And this is so where the evidence is admissible and indicative of the accused person’s guilt.
I should point out that this is not the position in this country. In this country the evidence of one child cannot corroborate the evidence of another child. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which I believe has been published again this year, seeks to get to the position where the evidence of a child victim can be corroborated by the evidence of another child victim. And this has been as a result of campaigns by different actors and especially FIDA in a case they had where a man was accused of having defiled his twin daughters and the court ruled that the two girls could not corroborate each other’s evidence, which meant that because there was no other independent testimony to fortify the evidence of the one child or the other child, the accused could not be convicted . The evidence was seen as not sufficient to sustain a conviction. Of course other issues were raised in that case as to whether you could look for corroboration in other circumstances. For instance, there was evidence that the two girls were found to have a venereal disease that their father had which would offer the corroboration, other than just the evidence of the children.
In the same case, Lord Hailsham stated that the word corroboration means no more than evidence tending to corroborate other evidence. And he goes on to says that in his view it is evidence which is partly admissible and also relevant. It is evidence that is credible and relevant. And it is evidence which if believed confirms the available evidence in the required parts. And here the assumption is that not all evidence is going to need corroboration. But the evidence that needs corroboration, the evidence that is going to corroborate it has to be evidence that is admissible and evidence that is relevant and also it has to be evidence that is believed confirms what evidence you have before the court. It is supposed to confirm support or strengthen other evidence rendering that other evidence more probable than it is standing on its own.
The same point on what corroboration is, is discussed in DPP v Kilbourne (1973) 1 ALL ER 440; (1973) AC 720 (1916) 2 KB 658, where Chief Justice Read says, “Evidence in corroboration must be independent testimony which affects the accused by connecting or tending to connect him with the crime. In other words, it must be evidence which implicates him, that is which confirms in some material particular not only had the evidence that the crime has been committed but also that the prisoner committed it.”
And right there then in the rendition of DPP v Kilbourne, R v Baskerville and in think in DPP v Hester, right there you have a clear definition of what corroboration is.
So will now move to discuss what the rationale is. But even before the court goes on to answer the question whether evidence needs to be corroborated, it has to consider firstly whether the evidence it has before it is credible. Before you begin to look for fortifying, strengthening, confirming evidence, you have to be convinced that the evidence you have before you is credible because no amount of corroboration can render incredible evidence credible. That is a principle of law and you should look the case of R v Jipkering arap Kosgey. It is authority for the proposition that no amount of corroboration would render incredible evidence credible. So the court has first to inquire as to whether the evidence that it has before it is credible before it even goes on to look for fortifying evidence, strengthening or confirming evidence.
Secondly, the corroborating evidence must also be credible. It should be credible. And again of course remember we said it has to be independent. It has to be credible and independent and should not be mere repetition of the evidence on record. And here again the principle to look out for is the principle at section 143 of the Evidence Act to the effect that “no particular number of witnesses shall, in the absence of any provision of law to the contrary, be required for the proof of any fact.”
So essentially you can prove your case by the evidence of one witness. You do not need a requisite or specific number of witnesses. That being the case then you do not just come to court to rehash evidence that is has been stated before. The evidence that is coming in to corroborate has to be independent, it has to be credible on its own. It shouldn’t be a mere repetition of the evidence on record.
And thirdly, except where statutes provide otherwise, each case stands on its own facts and it is therefore not possible to say in advance which evidence will go to corroborate the other in a particular case. Because every case except where a statute expressly says otherwise, will stand on its own facts. It is not possible to predetermine or to know in advance which evidence will go to corroborate the other in a particular case. It is all a matter of practice and experience, turning on the facts of each particular case.
As a general rule, there is no requirement that evidence be corroborated or that a tribunal of fact be warned of the danger of acting on uncorroborated evidence. So as a generally rule really there is no requirement for corroboration. And remember again we are going back to the principle at section 143 that there is no requirement that you bring in the evidence of a specific number of witnesses. You can just have one witness carrying the day.
A person is free to adduce evidence corroborating other evidence tendered and this may help especially where their case is weak. But the court has the jurisdiction to prevent administration of superfluous evidence for reason of cost and time. Essentially what we are saying is, as a general rule there is no requirement for corroboration or that the judge should warn the jury that it shouldn’t convict, or on the dangers of convicting on corroborated evidence. That being said, a person can bring in evidence to strengthen other evidence tendered especially where their case is weak. But even in those circumstances, remember the court does not have forever to sit and listen to people. So it has jurisdiction to say that that matter has already been testified to and in the interests of saving time and money could actually stop you from bringing in evidence especially where that evidence is superfluous.
And all this is going to betray the main principle that we are making or that we are stating that there is no requirement for corroboration. And in fact corroboration is going to be in many cases a waste of the court’s time, which then would lead to the point that you only ask for corroborating evidence where that is absolutely necessary. And asking for corroboration or requirement is an exception to the general rule. Like all rules of evidence the rule is larger than life but the exceptions are even larger. There are exceptions to this rule that corroboration is not required. And this falls generally into three categories:
WHERE CORROBORATION IS REQUIRED IN LAW
Maganga Msigara V.R the Appellant here was convicted of murder, the prosecution case depended on 3 witnesses included the sworn evidence of a child. The judge did not warn either the assessors or himself of the desirability of the evidence of child being corroborated. On Appeal it was held that where there has been proper direction as to corroboration, the court will allow the Appeal even if there was no corroboration unless it considers that no substantial miscarriage of justice has occurred. The court also held that it would be unsafe to allow the verdict of murder to stand in this particular case and allowed a conviction of manslaughter to be substituted instead.
CORROBORATION WARNING REQUIRED AS A MATTER OF LAW
The law on accomplices for example does not require corroboration. In this circumstance you have judicial authority or judge made law requiring that warning be given even though the statutes don’t require.
AN ACCOMPLICE TESTIFYING ON BEHALF OF THE PROSECUTION
DAVIS V. DPP is the landmark case on Accomplice Evidence. It classifies as accomplices the following persons
(a) Parties to the offence in question;
(b) Handlers of stolen property in case of thieves from whom they receive being on trial for the theft;
(c) Parties to another offence committed by the accused in respect of which evidence is admitted under the similar fact evidence rule.
The rule with regard to corroboration was stated in this case by Lord Simmons as follows: Where a person who is an accomplice gives evidence on behalf of the prosecution, it is the duty of the judge to warn the jury that although they may convict on this evidence, it is dangerous to do so unless corroborated. Where the judge fails to warn the jury in accordance with this rule, the conviction will be quashed even if there be ample corroboration of the evidence of the accomplice.
WHY IS CORROBORATION VITAL FOR ACCOMPLICE EVIDENCE?
The rationale is that the accomplice may have a purpose of his own to serve, he may give false evidence against the accused out of spite or to exaggerate or even invent the accused role in the crime in order to minimise his own culpability. Section 141 provides that an accomplice shall be a….. The accomplice may be doing this to shield himself from liability.
Davies V. DPP
The defendant with other youths attacked another group of youths with fists. One of the youths in the other groups died subsequently of stab wounds. Six youths were charged with the murder but only the defendant was convicted. Ell was one of the six youths charged but he was convicted of the lesser charge of common assault. At the trial of the defendant, L testified for the prosecution as to the admission by the defendant of the use of knife by him. The trial judge did not warn the jury of the danger of accepting this evidence without corroboration. The Defendant’s conviction was affirmed by the court of Appeal. On Appeal to the House of Lords, it was held that in a criminal trial, where a person who is an accomplice gives evidence for the prosecution, it is the duty of the court to warn that although it may convict upon this evidence it is dangerous to do so unless it is corroborated. Secondly the court stated that this rule, although a rule of practice now has the force of law and thirdly where the judge fail to warn as above, conviction will be quashed. It is in this case where the court defined as to who an accomplice is.
The court addressed its mind to the question of who is an accomplice and opined that from the cases
R V Moorings
R V Hasham Jiwa – these cases are to the effect that an agent provocateur is not an agent i.e. a person sent by the police as an agent provocateur is not an accomplice and their evidence does not require corroboration.
What evidence amounts to corroboration
It has to be relevant and admissible
It has to be independent
Has to implicate the accused or link the accused with the offence – visit the case of R v Baskerfield.
The requirement of corroboration warning in the case of accomplice evidence extends to matrimonial evidence Galler V. Galler which held that in divorce proceedings an adulterer who gives evidence of his own adultery is in the same position as an accomplice in a criminal case and hence the requirement for corroboration.
The Appellant and another person were charged with murder. Kinyua denied involvement but the second appellant confessed to his guilt and stated that Wilson Kinyua was also involved. At the trial, the second Appellant objected to the admission of the confession after a trial within a trial the 2nd Appellant confession was admitted even though the maker had disowned it earlier. Kinyua was convicted on the basis of the confession even though the trial court did not get corroboration for the confession. On Appeal, the court held that the 2nd Appellant confession was accomplice evidence which needed corroboration. The court went on to say that repudiated confessions should not form the basis of conviction without corroboration.
SEXUAL OFFENCES – corroboration has become the rule of law.
The rule is that in cases where the accused is charged with a sexual offence, the jury should be directed that it is not safe to convict upon the uncorroborated testimony of the complainant but that if they are satisfied of the truth of such evidence, they may after paying attention to that warning nevertheless convict. The corroboration requirement in sexual offences stems from the fact that the charge is easy to make and difficult to refute, there is the very present danger that the complainant may make a false accusation owing to sexual neurosis, jealousy, fantasy, spite or a girl’s refusal to admit that she consented to an act which she is now deeply ashamed. (the effect is to protect the perpetrator against the would be malicious accusations levelled against a defenceless male although while trying to do this you have more guilty people going free.
Kongwea V R
The complainant was a middle aged lady who give evidence that while she was going home, she was ambushed and raped. After the incident she said that the rapist fell asleep and she escaped while the rapist was sleeping and went to complain to her sister, the sister said that when the complainant came to her, she was trembling, had grass on her hair and she gave a description of the accused including the clothes he wore and a scar he had on the thigh whereupon the accused was arrested and charged. He was convicted and on appeal the question was whether there was sufficient corroboration. The court held that there was no sufficient corroboration but that it would sustain the conviction because the complainant appeared a truthful witness.
Njuguna Wangurimu V. R
The complainant here was a young girl who had gone to fetch firewood when she was raped. She testified that prior to the incident that she was a virgin. There was medical evidence of blood on her petticoat and the shorts of the accused person had some blood with traces of semen. There was no evidence that the blood on the accused shorts was the same group as that on the petticoat. A medical examination on the girl showed that the complainant had been used to having sex, contrary to her assertion that she was a virgin. The question was whether there was sufficient corroboration. The court held that there was insufficient corroboration of the complainant’s evidence and consequently the court could not convict.
R V. Ogendo (1940) 10 KLR 25
Where a young gal was found to suffer from the same sexually transmitted disease as the alleged rapist it was held that that medical evidence was sufficient corroboration of the assertion that one was raped.
Margaret V. R (1976) KLR 267
Where it was held that though it is not a rule of law that a person charged with a sexual offence cannot be convicted on the uncorroborated evidence of a complainant, it has long been the custom to look for and require corroboration before a conviction for such an offence is recorded.
WHERE THE COURTS AS A MATTER OF PRACTICE REQUIRE CORROBORATION
Corroboration is not ordinarily required and where required –