Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye of an Igbosere High Court in Lagos State has discharged and acquitted a cobbler, Niyi Akanbi, of a charge of defiling a 13-year-old student.
Ipaye also berated the prosecution for the manner it handled cases of sexual offence involving minors.
Delivering judgment on Tuesday during virtual court proceedings, the judge said that prosecution of cases involving minors should be handled meticulously.
“I cannot but observe and recommend that the prosecution of sexual offences against minors must be handled with utmost dispatch in recognition of their vulnerable status in society.
“The minor in this instant case was allegedly sexually molested on Feb. 28, 2014, yet the state was only able to present the defendant for arraignment on March 6, 2018, more than four years after the occurrence of the alleged incident.
“This ought not to be so; cases involving minors deserve priority, meticulous investigation and diligent efforts in ensuring that vital witnesses are presented to court in a timely and expeditious manner.
“This was regrettably absent in the prosecution of this case,” she said.
Ipaye said that no evidence was presented to the court to independently establish that the complainant was involved in sexual activity of any kind with Akanbi.
She also said that the defendant consistently did not admit to committing the offence in his statements to the police and evidence in court, adding that medical evidence was not presented in court by the prosecution.
“There is no evidence stronger than a man’s confession. In this case, the only surviving documentary evidence before the court are exhibits nine and 10 being statements made by the defendant.
“I have perused the two statements and by no stretch of imagination can they be classified as admissions of having committed the alleged offence.
“His statements were consistent with his testimony in open court. I find no reason not to accept his assertion.
“The prosecution, not having established the fact of penile penetration of the complaint and having not corroborated her testimony, failed to discharge the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
“The defendant, Niyi Akanbi, is hereby discharged and acquitted of all the charges contained in count one and two of the information,” she said.
NAN reports that prosecution led by Mr Akin George had alleged that Akanbi committed the offences on Feb, 28, 2014, behind his shop located at No.1, Jagunro St., Ojota, Lagos.
According to the prosecution, Akanbi defiled the student behind his shop when she took her schoolbag to him for repair.
Akanbi was arraigned at the High Court on March 6, 2017, on a two-count-charge of defilement and sexual assault by penetration.
The trial began on June 14, 2017. Prosecution presented three witnesses – the complainant, her mother and the investigating police officer, ASP Matthew Ibe.
After his evidence, Ibe did not come to court for cross-examination on the adjourned dates.
The judge consequently removed his evidence-in-chief from the court’s record.
Defence opened its case on June 17, 2019, with a neighbour and Pastor Mr Temitope Akindejoye and the defendant testifying.
It closed its case on Nov. 20, 2019.
The alleged offences contravene Sections 137 and 261 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.