Code of Conduct
- Written by justiceweb
In the exercise of their responsibilities, Prosecutors have an onerous burden to discharge particularly in coordinating investigation and evaluating evidence before determining whether, and if so, what charges to bring in any particular case. The significance of having clear guidance parameters to assist prosecutors particularly in the evaluation of cases and the exercise of prosecutorial discretion cannot therefore be over stressed.
These Prosecutorial guidelines were subjected to widespread consultation among stakeholders and have taken into account the complexity or gravity of a case, utility or timeliness of prosecution and the availability of evidence. They aim to enhance the performance of prosecutors by stipulating principles which should guide the initiation and conduct of prosecutions, along with factors which should be taken into consideration to ensure a fair reasoned and consistent prosecution process. Fairness in this sense includes truthfulness, and ensuring that the decision to initiate or continue a criminal trial is based on objective factors that are in the public interest and in accordance with best practices.
The guidelines also pay detailed attention to other aspects of prosecutions. For instance they prescribe a procedure for proactive engagement with the media and the public; there are also provisions that protect or give due consideration to victims of the crime, vulnerable groups and witnesses. Like the Code of Conduct, the Guidelines are intended primarily for law officers in the Department of Public Prosecutions in the Federal Ministry of Justice as well as in all federal law enforcement agencies that exercise prosecutorial powers.
Both instruments are informed by the need to enhance professionalism in the discharge of prosecutorial duties in accordance with international best practices and are significant outputs of the eight point "Strategy for the Implementation of Justice Reforms in Nigeria" which I announced in August 2011.
MR MOHAMMED BELLO ADOKE, SAN, CFR
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice
12th September 2013
PROSECUTORS GUIDELINES APPLICABLE TO A PROSECUTOR OF A
FEDERAL OFFENCE AND ANY PROSECUTION AT A FEDERAL COURT OR
COURT OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY (FCT)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. SCOPE AND APPLICATION
3. GENERAL PRINCIPLES
4. ROLE AND DUTIES OF THE PROSECUTOR
7. THE DECISION TO PROSECUTE: THE EVIDENCE AND PUBLIC INTEREST CRITERIA
8. SELECTION OF CHARGES
12. RE-OPENING A PROSECUTION
13. PLEA BARGAINS AND AGREEMENTS
14. VICTIMS AND WITNESSES
15. MEDIA CONTACT
1.1 These Guidelines are issued consistent with the Constitutional powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation over prosecutions under Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended in order to ensure that Public prosecution is carried out with regard to Public interest and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.
2.0 Scope and Application
2.1 These guidelines shall apply to:
(a) a Prosecutor serving in the Federal Ministry of Justice;
(b) a prosecutor employed by:
(i) the Nigeria Police
(ii) the Economic and Financial Crime(s) Commission;
(iii) the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission;
(iv) the Federal Inland Revenue Service;
(v) the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency;
(vi) the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Person;
(vii) the Code of Conduct Bureau; and
(viii) any Regulatory or Law Enforcement Agency with powers under its statute to prosecute;
(c) Private Prosecutors:
(i) with fiat of the Attorney General of the Federation; and
(ii) under section 143(e) Criminal Procedure Code.
3.0 General Principles
3.1 Fair and effective prosecution is essential to a properly functioning criminal justice system and to the maintenance of law and order. The individuals involved in a crime namely, the victim, the accused, and the witnesses (as well as society as a whole) have an interest in the decision whether or not to prosecute and for what offence, and in the outcome of the prosecution.
3.2 Every case is unique and must be considered on its own merits. The aim of these Guidelines for Prosecutors is to set out in general terms, principles which should guide the initiation and conduct of prosecutions. They are intended to give general guidance to prosecutors on the factors to be taken into account at the different stages of a prosecution, so that a fair, reasoned and consistent policy underlies the prosecution process.
4.0 Role and Duties of the Prosecutor
4.1 The essence of a criminal prosecution is not to obtain a conviction at all cost. It is to lay before the court what the Prosecutor considers to be credible evidence relevant to the allegation of a crime. The Prosecutor has a duty to see that all available legal proof of the facts is presented.
4.2 A Prosecutor is an officer of the court and minister in the temple of justice. The Prosecutor is primarily to assist the court to arrive at the truth and to do justice between the State and the accused according to law and the dictates of fairness. As a minimum therefore the Prosecutor must:
(a) prosecute diligently;
b) act independently, yet in the general public interest.
5.1 Fairness in the discharge of the prosecutorial function entails that the prosecutor:
(a) informs the defense and the court of directions, warnings or authorities which may be appropriate in the circumstances of the case, even where unfavourable to the prosecution.
(b) serves within the time stipulated by the rules of court or any relevant Practice Direction1 copies of the statements of evidence and documentary exhibits upon the court and the accused;
(c) provides to the court a written case summary on the evidence as it presently stands;
(d) specifies in the summary what further evidence is to come and how long the prosecution reasonably estimates that the evidence can be served on the court and the accused; and
(e) conducts cross-examination of an accused person as to credit or motive fairly. Material put to an accused person must be considered on reasonable grounds to be accurate and its use justified in the circumstances of the trial.
6.1 It is a fundamental obligation of a prosecutor to assist in the timely and efficient administration of criminal justice. Section 35(4) and (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, requires that charges should be filed in a timely manner. Prosecutors must determine whether there are reasonable grounds that justify continuation of investigation
6.2 A Prosecutor must:
(a) ensure that charges are filed within a reasonable time and communicate particulars of the charges or information to the accused as soon as possible.
(b) prepare cases for hearing as quickly as possible;
(c) take reasonable steps to maintain and enhance knowledge, skills and the personal qualities necessary for the proper performance of prosecutorial duties; this entails keeping himself or herself well-informed of relevant legal developments, including applicable human rights norms, taking 1 Paragraphs (b) – (d) are based on the provisions of the Federal High Court (Criminal) Practice Directions 2013. Advantage for this purpose of those training and other facilities which are available;
(d) provide guidance and advice to investigators throughout the investigation and prosecution of the case; and
(e) bring to a timely conclusion cases that do not meet the criteria of sufficient evidence and Public interest.
7.0 The Decision to Prosecute: The Evidence and Public Interest Criteria
7.1 In Nigeria, as is the practice in other jurisdictions, not all suspected criminal offences must automatically be the subject of prosecution. The overall consideration is whether it appears that the offence or the circumstances of its commission is or are of such a nature that a prosecution is required in the public interest. A prosecutor must weigh the contending interests of the community, suspect and the victim in determining whether or not to prosecute.
7.2 The Strength of the Evidence
7.2.1 No prosecution should be undertaken where essential evidence of the basic elements of the offence are lacking. The main reasons for this are: (a) It is not in the public interest to use public resources on the prosecution of a case which has no reasonable prospect of success;
(b) It may amount to an abuse of legal process where a prosecution is commenced against a person when there is insufficient evidence to assure a realistic prospect of conviction
(c) If there was a very high rate of prosecutions resulting in acquittals this could undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system.
7.2.2 A prosecution should not be instituted unless there is a prima facie case against the suspect. By this is meant that there is admissible, substantial and reliable evidence that a criminal offence known to the law has been committed by the suspect. The evidence should be such that if uncontradicted, a court could reasonably convict on it.
7.2.3 In considering the strength of the evidence, the existence of a prima facie case is important. Once it is established that there is a prima facie case it is then necessary to give consideration to the prospects of conviction. The prosecutor should not lay a charge where there is no reasonable prospect of securing a conviction before a court. Note that it is NOT the law that there must be an eye witness to an alleged offence.
7.2.4 It is not sufficient if the evidence is likely to go no further than to show on a balance of probabilities that it was more likely than not that the suspect committed the offence but does not go so far as to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For this reason, it is important to know if there is independent evidence which supports the complainant’s story. This could be evidence from another witness, or forensic evidence such as fingerprints or DNA evidence from body tissue. This makes the case stronger than one based on one person’s word against another.
7.3 Evidence Test
Each case is unique, and the variety of human experience and behaviour so great as to make it impossible to outline a comprehensive list of all possible considerations which could arise in evaluating the admissibility and strength of evidence. Questions which may arise include for instance:
(a) Are there grounds for believing that evidence may be excluded, bearing in mind the principles of admissibility under the Evidence Act or applicable law? For example, has confession evidence been properly obtained?
(b) If the case depends in whole or in part on admissions by the suspect, are there grounds for believing that the admissions may not be reliable considering all the circumstances of the case including the age, intelligence, mental state and apparent understanding of the suspect? Are the admissions consistent with what can be objectively proved? Is there any reason why the suspect would make a false confession?
(c) Where the suspect was aged under 12 years at the time of the offence, is there evidence available to show that, at that time, he or she could distinguish right from wrong?
(d) Does it appear that a witness is exaggerating, or has a faulty memory, or is either hostile or friendly to the accused, or may be unreliable for some reason? Did a witness have the opportunity to observe what he or she claims to have seen? Are there any other matters known to the prosecution which may significantly lessen the likelihood of acceptance of the testimony of a witness?
(e) Has a witness been consistent in his or her evidence? If not, can the inconsistencies be explained? Does the evidence tally with the behaviour of the witness?
(f) Does a witness have a motive for telling an untruth or less than the whole truth?
(g) Could the reliability of evidence be affected by physical or mental illness or infirmity?
(h) What sort of impression is a witness likely to make? How is the witness likely to stand up to cross-examination? Is the witness’s background, including previous convictions likely to weaken the prosecution case?
(i) If there is conflict between witnesses, does it go beyond what might be considered normal and hence materially weaken the case?
(j) If, on the other hand, there is a lack of conflict between witnesses, is there anything which causes suspicion that a false story may have been concocted?
(k) Are all the necessary witnesses available to give evidence, including any who may be abroad? In the case of witnesses who are abroad, the possibility of obtaining the evidence.
(l) Are all the necessary witnesses competent to give evidence? If so, are they compellable? If competent but not compellable, have they indicated their willingness to testify?
(m) Where child witnesses are involved, are they likely to be able to give sworn evidence or unsworn evidence in accordance with the criteria in the Evidence Act or any other law? How is the experience of a trial likely to affect them particularly in cases of sexual offences or offences involving violence?
(n) In relation to mentally handicapped witnesses, are they capable of giving an intelligible account of events which are relevant to the proceedings so as to enable their evidence to be given pursuant to the Evidence Act?
(o) If identification is likely to be an issue, how cogent and reliable is the evidence of those who claim to identify the accused?
(p) Where there might otherwise be doubts concerning a particular piece of evidence, is there any independent evidence to support it?
(q) If the suspect has given an explanation, is a court likely to find it credible in the light of the evidence as a whole? Does it support an innocent explanation? In assessing the evidence, the prosecutor should also have regard to any defence which are plainly open to, or have been indicated by, the accused. The assessment of the credibility and reliability of evidence is ultimately a matter for the court. However where there are grave and substantial concerns as to the reliability of essential evidence, criminal proceedings will not be appropriate.
7.4 Duty to continuously review evidence
7.4.1 The assessment of the evidence not only has to be made initially but needs to be reviewed at every stage of the proceedings. The primary decision to charge is made by the prosecutor and he or she may request further investigative work from the investigating authorities. For example, this may include requesting the investigator to give an alleged offender an opportunity to answer or comment upon the substance of the allegations or a request for copies of relevant records, statements or other material not included in the file.
7.5 The Public Interest:
7.5.1 There is a clear public interest in ensuring that crime is prosecuted and that the wrongdoer is convicted and punished. It follows from this that it will generally be in the public interest to prosecute a crime where there is sufficient evidence to justify doing so, unless there is some Countervailing public interest reason not to prosecute. In practice, the prosecutor approaches each case first by asking whether the evidence is sufficiently strong to justify prosecuting. If the answer to that question is “no”, then a prosecution will not be pursued; If the answer is “yes”, then before deciding to prosecute the prosecutor will ask whether the public interest favours a prosecution or if there is any public interest reason not to prosecute.
7.6 Public Interest Test
7.6.1 Once the prosecutor is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to justify the institution or continuance of a prosecution, the next consideration is whether, in the light of the provable facts and the whole of the surrounding circumstances, the public interest requires a prosecution to be pursued.
7.6.2 The first factor to consider in assessing where the public interest lies is, therefore, the seriousness of the alleged offence and whether there are any aggravating or mitigating factors.
7.6.3 Aggravating Factors
184.108.40.206 Seriousness of the offence The following aggravating factors, which are not intended to be exhaustive, tend to increase the seriousness of the offence and if present will tend to increase the likelihood that the public interest requires a prosecution:
(a) where a conviction is likely to result in a significant penalty;
(b) where the Legislature has prescribed a mandatory penalty or other consequence of a conviction such as a disqualification or forfeiture;
(c) if the accused was in a position of authority or trust and the offence is an abuse of that position;
(d) where the accused was a ringleader or an organiser of the offence;
(e) where the offence was premeditated;
(f) where the offence was carried out by a group;
(g) where the offence was carried out pursuant to a plan in pursuit of a joint criminal enterprise;
(h) where a weapon was used or violence threatened or the victim of the
offence has been otherwise put in fear, or suffered personal attack, damage or disturbance. The more vulnerable the victim the greater the aggravation;
(i) where there is a marked difference between the actual or mental ages of the accused and the victim, and the accused took advantage of this;
(j) if there is any element of corruption;
(k) where the accused has previous convictions or criminal record relevant to the present offence;
(l) if the accused is alleged to have committed the offence whilst on bail, on probation, or subject to a suspended sentence or an order binding the accused to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, or released on licence from a prison or a place of detention;
(m) where there are grounds for believing that the offence is likely to be continued or repeated, for example, where there is a history of recurring conduct.
220.127.116.11 Other Aggravating Factors
In addition to factors affecting the seriousness of an offence, other matters which may arise when considering whether the public interest requires a prosecution may include the following:
(a) the availability and efficacy of any alternatives to prosecution;
(b) the prevalence of offences of the nature of that alleged and the need for deterrence, both generally and in relation to the particular circumstances of the offender;
(c) the need to maintain the rule of law and public confidence in the criminal justice system;
(d) whether the consequences of a prosecution or a conviction would be disproportionately harsh or oppressive in the particular circumstances of the offender;
(e) the attitude of the victim or the family of a victim of the alleged offence to a prosecution;
(f) the likely effect on the victim or the family of a victim of a decision to prosecute or not to prosecute;
(g) whether the likely length and expense of a trial would be disproportionate having regard to the seriousness of the alleged offence and the strength of the evidence;
(h) whether the offender is willing to co-operate in the investigation or prosecution of other offenders, or has already done so;
(i) if a sentence has already been imposed on the offender in relation to another matter whether it is likely that an additional penalty would be imposed;
(j) whether an offender who has admitted the offence has shown genuine remorse and a willingness to make amends;
(k) whether the offence is of a purely technical nature;
(l) whether a prosecution could put at risk confidential informants or matters of national security;
(m) whether any circumstances exist that would prevent a fair trial from being conducted;
(n) whether the offender is either very young or elderly or suffering from significant mental or physical ill health or disability.
7.6.4 Mitigating factors
18.104.22.168 The following mitigating factors, if present, tend to reduce the seriousness of the offence and hence the likelihood of a prosecution being required in the public interest:
(a) if the court is likely to impose a very small or nominal penalty and prosecution is likely to be protracted;
(b) where the loss or harm can be described as minor and was the result of a single incident, particularly if it was caused by an error of judgment;
(c) where the offence is a first offence, if it is not of a serious nature and is unlikely to be repeated;
(d) Whether there has been a long delay between the date of the offence and the trial. (see 22.214.171.124)
The prosecutor should, in any case where there has been a long delay since the offence was committed, consider in the light of the law whether that delay is such that the case should not proceed. Some of the considerations which the prosecutor should bear in mind are the following:
(a) whether any delay was caused or contributed to by the suspect;
(b) whether the fact of the offence or of the suspect’s responsibility for it has recently come to light;
(c) where any delay was caused or contributed to by a long investigation, whether the length of the investigation was reasonable in the circumstances;
(d) whether there is a real and serious risk of an unfair trial;
(e) where the victim has delayed in reporting the offence, the age of the victim both when the offence was committed and when it was reported;
(f) where there has been a delay in making a complaint, whether the complainant was emotionally and psychologically inhibited from or incapable of making the complaint, and, if so, to what extent and in what manner, and
(g) whether this was by reason of behaviour that could be attributed to the suspect, whether by overt actions or threats or a more subtle form of dominion or psychological control;
(h) whether there is specific prejudice caused to the alleged offender by reason of any delay or lapse of time;
(i) whether the suspect has admitted the offence.
7.6.5 A decision not to prosecute a complex case on ground of public interest must be brought to the notice of the Attorney General within 2 days of taking the decision
8.0 Selection of Charges
8.1 In selecting charges to be preferred against a suspect, the prosecutor must select those which-
(a) are within the Court jurisdiction;
(b) reflect the seriousness and extent of the alleged offence;
(c) can lawfully, reasonably and conveniently be tried together or in groups;
(d) enable the case to be presented to a court in a clear and comprehensive way;
(e) give the court adequate sentencing power to reflect the offence; and
(f) enable the court to make suitable ancillary orders
8.2.1 A prosecutor must never prefer more charges than required in order to encourage an accused person to plead guilty to some.
9.1 A prosecutor must ensure that he or she is fully conversant with, and complies with the Constitutional provisions for the protection of personal liberty and the laws governing bail. In particular, if the trial of a defendant remanded in custody has not started within a reasonable
time then, in accordance with section 35 of the 1999 Constitution, the prosecutor should not oppose a bail application but may put forward reasonable conditions
9.2 A prosecutor must always bear in mind that bail is not to be withheld as a form of punishment or the prejudgment of a case. When a question arises whether or not to oppose bail a prosecutor must consider carefully:
(a) the law;
(b) the charges especially the seriousness of the charge and severity of the punishment;
(c) the strength of the evidence;
(d) the protection of victims, witnesses and the general public;
(e) the personal circumstances of the accused;
(f) the likelihood of the commission of offences if granted bail;
(g) the likelihood of failure to attend court; and
(h) any other relevant factor.
9.2.1 If a legal issue arises concerning bail in a case where the Prosecutor is not a legal practitioner, the issue must be referred immediately to the Attorney General or a designated person.
10.1 A prosecutor must endeavor to reduce to a minimum the number of adjournments both before and after the commencement of a trial. Every effort should be made to ensure a trial is not delayed at its commencement and continues on consecutive working days until conclusion. Applications to adjourn should be vigorously opposed unless they are absolutely unavoidable.
10.2 It is not the duty of a prosecutor to obtain counsel for an accused person or put forward the case of an accused person. However, assistance must be offered to the court and an accused person if the interests of justice so require.
10.3 A prosecutor must ensure that the prosecution’s case is fully ready for the time fixed for trial. This includes ensuring that:
(a) the prosecution case is known thoroughly
(b) all legal, evidential and procedural issues are known, researched and ready for presentation to or argument before the court;
(c) the prosecution has complied with the duties of a prosecutor to avoid and prevent unnecessary delays in accordance with any relevant rules of court or Practice Direction in Force2.
(d) proper and timely response to each request and question reasonably raised by the defense and the timely supply of all material reasonably requested by the defense;
(e) witnesses are available and attend court,.
(f) each required exhibit held by the prosecution is in court, whether for the prosecution or defense;
(g) there are copies of all relevant documents for all persons who need them, where appropriate; and
(h) an assessment has been made of the likely defences and how these can be properly countered.
11.1 When sentence is being considered the prosecutor should draw the attention of the court to:
(a) the previous character and conviction of the defendant;
(b) any aggravating or mitigating facts disclosed by the evidence;
(c) evidence of the impact of the offence on the victim and the victim’s family;
2 This provision is based on the Federal High Court (Criminal) Practice Direction 2013 particularly paragraphs 4 and 6 thereof;
(d) statutory powers and limitations on sentencing;
(e) relevant sentencing guidelines if any; and
(f) any ancillary orders that the court may make (for example confiscation or compensatory orders)
11.3 If the mitigation put forward after a guilty plea:
(a) amounts to a denial of the offence, then the prosecutor should advise the court that the accused person’s plea should be changed to one of “not guilty”;
(b) is so different to the prosecution’s version of the facts that it would affect the sentence, then the prosecutor should ask for a hearing to determine the basis on which sentencing should take place.
11.3 The prosecutor should challenge any significant assertion made in mitigation that is inaccurate or misleading. If the defense persists in the assertions then the court should be invited to hear evidence before sentence is passed.
11.5 If derogatory assertions of any person are made in mitigation then the court should be asked to consider if they are relevant to sentence and, if so, to hear evidence on them before sentence is passed.
12.0 Re-opening A Prosecution
12.1 If there are special and compelling reasons a prosecution may be started or reopened in the following cases: Where:
(a) the original decision was clearly wrong; or
(b) fresh evidence comes to light which previously:
(i) could not reasonably have been known; or
(ii) could not reasonably have been obtained.
12.1.1 The decision to start or reopen a prosecution in the circumstances outlined in paragraph 12.1 above shall be taken by the Attorney- General or a designated person. If an accused person has been formally found guilty or not guilty of an offence or pardoned, then no new prosecution will be brought in respect of that offence.
12.1.3 If before the prosecution was withdrawn, the evidence adduced at the hearing is substantial, prosecution should not ordinarily be re-opened as this will put the defendant in double jeopardy bearing in mind that a discharge at this stage amounts to acquittal.
12.1.4 A prosecutor should not in general withdraw a prosecution solely on account of the weight of unfavourable evidence at the trial with a view to reopening the prosecution after correcting the defect in the evidence.
13.0 Plea Bargains and Agreements
13.1 No prosecutor shall enter into a plea bargain discussion with an accused person without the prior knowledge and approval of the Attorney-General of the Federation. The views of the investigator and the victim must be sought at the outset of formal discussions, and in any event before any formal position is communicated to the defence, and must be recorded on file. An agreement made pursuant to such discussions shall also be subject to the Attorney General’s approval.
13.1.1 Where before trial or in the course of trial a defendant proposes or signifies readiness to plead guilty to a lesser charge as part of a plea bargain agreement, the Prosecutor may subject to paragraph 13.1 above enter into discussion leading to such agreement where:
(a) the alternative charge adequately reflects the essential criminality of the conduct and the plea provides adequate scope for sentencing;
(b) there is need to obtain reliable and material testimony from an accomplice as prosecution witness and the evidence cannot be obtained in any other way;
(c) the evidence available to support the prosecution case is weak in any material respect;
(d) the saving of cost and time weighed against the likely outcome of the matter if it proceeded to trial is substantial;
(e) it will save a witness, particularly a victim or other vulnerable witness, from the stress of testifying in a trial; and
(f) a victim has expressed a wish not to proceed with the original charge or charges.
13.1.2 Where the discussion leads to a plea bargain agreement, the agreement must be reduced into writing as a plea agreement, signed by both parties and including:
(a) A list of the charges;
(b) A statement of the facts; and
(c) A declaration, signed by the defendant personally, to the effect that he or she accepts the stated facts and admits he or she is guilty of the agreed charges.
13.1.3 When seeking the approval of the Attorney General for an agreement referred to in paragraph 13.1.2 of these guidelines the prosecutor must send with the request:
(a) The signed plea agreement;
(b) The extent to which the views of the person who investigated the offence and the views of the victim were considered;
(c) A joint submission by the prosecutor and the counsel for the defence on considerations taken into account in proposing the sentence;
(d) Any relevant sentencing guidelines or authorities;
(e) All of the material provided by the prosecution to the accused in the course of the plea discussions;
(f) Any material provided by the accused to the Prosecutor and
(g) The minutes of any meetings between the parties and any correspondence generated in the plea discussions.
14.0 Victims and Witnesses
14.1 Interests of Victims and witnesses A prosecutor shall pay special attention to the interests of victims and witnesses. When a decision is taken not to go on with a prosecution or to change a case significantly then the prosecutor must inform the victim and the witnesses.
14.1.1 A prosecutor should consider the interests and safety of victims and witnesses before, during and after trial. In particular, a prosecutor should endeavor to have trials started as soon as possible and reduce to a minimum the number of times victims and witnesses have to attend court. Once a trial has started, the prosecutor should endeavour to ensure that the testimony of victims or witnesses is heard promptly and without adjournment and they are allowed to leave immediately on completion.
14.1.2 A prosecutor must ask for special measures if this would improve the quality of a witness’s evidence. Particular attention must be paid to vulnerable witnesses like women, children, the aged and the disabled.
14.1.3 A prosecutor must not act for the victims of crime or their families in the way a lawyer acts for his client but must act on behalf of the public and in the interests of justice as a whole.
14.2 Preparing witnesses
A prosecutor should not put a witness in the witness box without a pre-trial conference. The prosecutor must be satisfied that the evidence to be given will be relevant and credible.
14.2.1 A prosecutor should never put words in the mouth of a witness during pre-trial conference but should let every witness tell his story by himself.
14.2.2 if the story of a witness at the pre-trial conference is materially different from his statement, the prosecutor should call the Investigators to reduce the second version into writing as an additional statement of the witness and serve copies of both or all versions as the case may be of the statement on the defence.
14.2.3 The prosecutor should never put such a witness in evidence and if the absence of his evidence nullifies a prima facie case, the prosecution should be withdrawn. A prosecutor should as much as possible avoid holding pre-trial conference at the venue of the court on the day of the case. A pre-trial conference should be held a day or two to the day of hearing in the office of the prosecutor.
15.0 Media Contact
15.1 The public release of information must be done consistently. Public confusion and criticism may result if different officers publish different material about the same or a related or comparable matter. Uncoordinated release of information may also prejudice action being taken by others (for example the Attorney General)which may not be known to all officers.
15.2 Basic Rules
15.2.1 There is no general obligation to provide information to the media.
15.2.2 The names and addresses of victims and addresses of other witnesses who are to be or have been called in court proceedings should not be supplied to the media. Information already given in open court (including names and addresses) may be confirmed. Care must be taken to ensure that the identities of witnesses such as prisoners, informers and others who are giving evidence at some personal risk are kept confidential (so far as is possible) and are not disclosed to the media.
15.2.3 True copies of open exhibits (including paper photographs and prints) may, if convenient, be inspected or provided if otherwise appropriate;
15.2.4 Videotapes and audiotapes of recorded interviews, re-enactments, demonstrations and identifications and all digital photographs and recordings are not to be provided or made available for inspection.
15.2.5 On account of security considerations, it will normally be sufficient to indicate that the prosecution is being conducted by the Ministry or a relevant agency without disclosing names or identity of the prosecutor.
15.2.6 It is not appropriate to discuss with the media the likely result of proceedings or the prospect of appellate proceedings being instituted, or of a matter being discontinued or of an an ex officio process being filed.
15.2.7 It is not appropriate to comment to the media on the correctness or otherwise of any determination of a court. Discretion should be exercised in relation to sensitive material (eg. Medical reports, pre-sentence reports) or material produced under compulsion, where it may be more appropriate to direct inquiries to the court. Medical (including psychiatric and psychological) reports on offenders and victims should not be made available to the media by the prosecution.
15.2.8 If it is considered that something should be issued proactively to the media on behalf of the Ministry or a relevant agency (for example the issue of a statement of a general kind), the prosecutor should refer the matter to the office of the Attorney General or the CEO of the Agency.
15.2.9 In complex and sensitive cases there may be a need to refer to the Attorney General for advice or instructions on how to proceed.
15.2.10 Statements, summaries, criminal histories, exhibits or copies (including documents, paper photographs, plans and the like), the disclosure of which is permissible pursuant to these guidelines, are only to be provided to the media, subject to the following qualifications.
(a) Inspection of any such items should take place in the presence of an official of the Ministry or a relevant agency and only if convenient. It is permissible likewise to allow the media to view lengthy documents for the purposes of accurate reporting
(b) Copies of statements of witnesses admitted into evidence with addresses and telephone numbers deleted may be provided if that is the more convenient course, subject to the restrictions and provisions referred to above.
(c) Transcripts of court proceedings may not be provided or displayed to the media.
(d) Disclosure of documentation or information, other than that permitted in accordance with these guidelines, is not to occur unless approved by the Attorney General or the CEO of a relevant agency
Generally rulings on evidence and any other matter dealt with by the court should not be commented upon publicly by prosecutors, other than
to remind the media that those matters should not be reported during the trial.
15.4 Legal Opinion or advice to be excluded
The seeking and giving of legal advice within the administrative framework of the Ministry or a relevant agency is not carried out in public and the process is subject to privilege. No public comment concerning matters referred to the FMOJ for advice or the contents of such advice is to be made without the approval of the Attorney General.
15.5 Media Officer
All inquiries from the media for information should be directed to the Media officer except where the information requested:
(a) is of an uncontroversial nature;
(b) is of a kind routinely provided directly by prosecutors and has been provided to the defence; or
(c) is readily obtainable by the defence (for example, statements of facts admitted or handed up to the bench on bail hearings or pleas of guilty, names or addresses of witnesses who have given them in open testimony in court, details of charges heard in open court or included in a Court Attendance Notice, agreed statements of facts that have been tendered and admitted).
15.5.1 Prosecutors may provide the media with the media officer’s contacts (including e-mail address, work and mobile telephone numbers).
15.5.2 Media releases on behalf of the Ministry or relevant agency are to be issued by the media officer with the approval:
(a) in the case of the Ministry, of the Attorney General or Director of Public Prosecution; or
(b) in the case of a relevant agency, the CEO of the agency
15.5.3 Requests for Interviews
Requests for interviews with prosecutors on matters concerning prosecutions should be referred to the Media officer.
15.5.4 Special Interest Matters
A Prosecutor who is in charge of a matter that is likely to attract significant media attention should provide details of the matter, in advance, to the Media Officer.
16.1 In these guidelines:
“Attorney General” means the Attorney General of the Federation; “designated person” means any person authorized by the Attorney General and mentioned under Section 174 of the Constitution of the FRN). “harm” includes physical or psychological harm, the loss of an immediate family member or the loss, destruction of, or damage to property; “legal practitioner” means a legal practitioner as defined in the Legal Practitioners Act; “Media officer” means in the case of the Federal Ministry of Justice the Chief Press Secretary in the office of the Attorney General and in the case of a relevant agency the person in charge of Media Liaison and Communications by whatever name called in that agency or organization; “Ministry” means the Federal Ministry of Justice; “relevant agency” means a body or organization referred to or which falls under paragraph 2.1(b) of these Guidelines; “victim” means a person who suffers harm as a direct result of an act committed, or apparently committed, by another person in the course of a criminal offence and includes a member or nominated representative member of the victim's immediate family if the person dies
16.2 A case is to be regarded as complex or difficult where the case:
(a) has a significant international dimension;
(b) involves cash or assets of a value exceeding N50 million;
(c) requires specialized knowledge of financial commercial fiscal or regulatory matters such as the operation of markets banking systems trust or tax regimes;
(d) involves allegations of fraudulent conduct against numerous victims;
(e) involves substantial or significant loss of funds by a Ministry, Department or public agency;
(f) is likely to be of widespread public concern; or
(g) involves an alleged misconduct which amounts to an act of economic sabotage