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Court frees rape suspect after spending three years in jail

"Unless investigations are carried out in a painstaking, thorough manner, sloppy investigations shall continue to be the bane of this criminal justice system. The resultant effect is that criminals and offenders will go free, victims will be let down by the system and justice will not have been seen to have been done".-Justice Soladoye

An Ikeja Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Court on Tuesday set free a driver, Afeez Balogun, after spending three years in prison for an alleged defilement of a two year old child.

Balogun was a driver of a school, Holbrook Creche Nursery and Primary School, Pedro, Gbagada, Lagos, where he was accused of defiling the girl, a pupil of the school.

The trial judge, Justice Abisola Soladoye acquitted Balogun following the prosecution’s failure to prove a charge of defilement proffered against him beyond reasonable doubt.

The judge berated the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Nigerian Police Force over the handling of the case of Balogun, saying that their investigations was shoddy.

Balogun spent three years in custody. He was 27-years old when he was remanded at the Correctional Center over the allegations. He is now 30 years old at the time of release.

Acquitting the defendant, the judge said the police did not investigate the case thoroughly before presenting it before the DPP. “The police was shoddy in investigating this case. The state prosecution service domiciled in the DPP cannot be completely exonerated of blame”, she said.

The judge said further: “There ought to be closer interaction with the authorities and the DPP’s office as each case is being investigated. It is not enough to be handing legal advice at the conclusion of investigations. The prosecution mainly the lawyers must be actively involved in ensuring that evidence is properly gathered, meticulously evaluated and every appropriate lead is followed;

“Unless investigations are carried out in a painstaking, thorough manner, sloppy investigations shall continue to be the bane of this criminal justice system. The resultant effect is that criminals and offenders will go free, victims will be let down by the system and justice will not have been seen to have been done,” she said.

The judge faulted the inability of the police to conduct an identification parade as required by law to properly identify who molested the minor in the school.

She described the identification parade conducted by the school in which the minor picked out the defendant as the perpetrator as “self serving and does not have any efficacy in law”.

Soladoye noted that the failure of the minor to identify the defendant in the dock had made the prosecution’s case “collapse like a pack of cards” and described the trial as a collosal waste of judicial time and resources.

Reacting to the judgment, the defence counsel, Mr Oluwole Kehinde expressed his gratitude to the verdict.

“There is no cohesion between the police, lawyers and the justice ministry and the judges bear the brunt,” he said.

According to the prosecution led by Mr Olusola Soneye, the defendant, a staff Holbrook Creche Nursery and Primary School committed the offence sometime in July 2018.

Four witnesses- the minor, her mother, a medical doctor and a police officer testified for the prosecution during the trial. The medical doctor, Dr Oyedeji Alagbe in his evidence told the court that the child was incoherent during his interactions with her.

Alagbe said she was however able to identify a dummy penis shown to her as what was used to defile her. The child while testifying in court, failed to identify the defendant in court as her abuser but rather kept mentioning a “Mr Wale” as the perpetrator.

It is not however clear whether the defendant can lay claims to compensation for the time he spent in prison. The new Administration of Criminal Justice (Amendment) Law [ACJL] of Lagos State, 2021, the governor signed the new reforms into law on September 31, 2021, according to the Attorney General of the state, Moyosore Onigbanjo SAN, is to strengthen the justice system, promote the rights of victims and suspects as well as address the issue of delay in the Administration of Justice.

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