Cross-examination, most effective tool in court proceedings, says former Lagos DPP
Former Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and Solicitor-General of Lagos State, Mr. Fola Arthur-Worrey has said that cross-examination is the most effective tool in the right of a party in criminal or civil proceedings to challenge the opposing party’s case, particularly where the entire case turns substantially on the credibility of witnesses.
The former permanent secretary in Lagos, stated this in a paper he presented in a workshop on Oral Advocacy, organised by the Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) in conjunction with Conference of Western Attorney Generals (CWAG). He said cross-examination is a process consistent with the adversarial nature of ‘our judicial system’.
He said: “It is intended to produce truth or discredit falsehoods and thereby ensure justice by subjecting competing positions to scrutiny where there is a dispute over facts or opinions. Its foundation is the Common Law, which incorporates a tradition of live testimony in court subject to adversarial testimony, as distinct from the civil law system which condones examination in private by judicial officials.”
He pointed out the techniques of cross-examination includes effectiveness of leading questions, the need to avoid needless use of adjectives as well as the importance of showing brevity.
In his own paper on “Presenting Evidence”, the senior partner, Punuka Attorneys, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN) said there are several procedures in commencing civil actions. According to him, they include writ of summons, originating summons, petition, originating motion or application.
The senior advocate, however, noted that commencement of an action by a writ of summons is the only procedure in which during trial, evidence need to be formally tendered in an admissible manner.
Citing section 37 and 38 of the Evidence Act 2011, he stated that hearsay evidence is admissible in law, adding that all facts, except contents of documents, may be proved by oral evidence .
His words: “Although criminal trials do not adopt front loading procedure, a good advocate must put his house in order ahead of trial to ensure victory. In the end, examination of witnesses with the key aim of presenting relevant evidence is a mix of art and skill. Some of it can be acquired by experience and study but a great deal of the advocate’s success in examination of witnesses is an art endowed naturally in a gifted advocate.”
Other speakers include the former chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Alex Muoka, Bill Wynhoff and Scott Erickson.