Today, despite the ‘cautioning words’ against making false evidence that the court’s registrar gives a witness standing in the witness box while standing as a witness for a party in a case before either a court of law or a quasi-judicial body or tribunal, some witnesses still tell lies and or give false evidence in a judicial proceedings and they would not have normally told lies or make false evidence if not on the ill-advice given to them by their lawyers and having regard to the usual pretrial rehearsal held by lawyers with their clients! This paper considers the giving of false evidence as not only a case for the client alone but also as a case for the lawyer, hence, the topic of this paper.
It is first and foremost no doubt that giving false evidence in court or before a tribunal is an offence punishable under the relevant criminal law. For the purpose of this paper, I shall rely on the provisions of the Penal Code Act of Federal Capital Territory-Abuja, 2007-herein after referred to as the PC-, as a reference in this regard. Section 156 and 158 of the PC provide for what amount to giving false evidence and offences relating to the administration of justice with the effect of section 156 of the PC, providing thus ‘Whoever, being legally bound by an oath or by any express provision of law to state the truth or being bound by law to make a declaration upon any subject, makes any statement, verbally or otherwise, which is false in a material particular and which he either knows or believes to be false or does not believe to be true, is said to give false evidence’. And by section 158 of the PC, it provides thus ‘158(1) Whoever intentionally gives false evidence in any stage of a judicial proceedings or fabricates false evidence for the purpose of its being used in any stage of a judicial proceeding shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to fourteen years and shall also be liable to fine. (2) Whoever intentionally gives or fabricates false evidence in any other case, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine’. It is clear from section 158 of the PC that the punishment for telling lies or giving false evidence in a trial in court or judicial proceedings is punishmentwith imprisonment for a term which ‘may extend to 14 years and shall also be liable to fine’. It is also worthy to observe the provision of sections: 83, 84 and 85 of the PC on ‘abetting’. The punishment for abetting (it does not matter under the section whether the person abetting is the lawyer to his client (the client who committed the offence on his lawyer’s advice)) is the same punishment for the offence that the person who was instigated or misadvised committed ( and in this case of giving false evidence, it is 14 years with fine). From these sections of the PC, and having considered their effects, I felt pity for lawyers who advise their clients to tell lies or give false evidence in court or in a judicial proceedings so as to defeat the cause of justice because the purpose of giving false evidence is definitely to either suppress facts which are against the party in a case for and or on behalf of whom the false evidence is useful or to obstruct or defeat the cause of justice. There are those who are also sponsored witnesses to give false evidence before a judicial proceedings! I pity these persons too! In my humble view, the lawyer would definitely incur wrath just as the doer of the offence where the doer of the offence states that he had acted or given false evidence before the judicial proceedings as advised by his lawyer! Then, in my humbly view, the lawyer too can be arrested and charged for abetting such crime and punished accordingly (apart from the facts that the lawyer can also be punished by the disciplinary body in the legal profession for unethical conducts). See: Rule 1 of the Rules of Professional Conducts for Legal Practitioners, 2007.
In my humble view (with due respect to those lawyers), it is most unprofessional for a lawyer to advise his client to stand as a witness before a court of law to give false evidence, without realizing the legal consequences just to escape or pervert the cause of justice! It is very unfortunate that some persons (even lawyers) do not regard the court of law or judicial proceedings as of any deadly effect or consequence in giving false evidence! They give false evidence happily and with passion without realizing the legal consequences of their criminal action! In any of these kinds of situations, the other lawyer for the other party in the judicial proceedings only has to apply for the certified true copy of the record of proceedings of that proceedings and secure the true evidence and either report to the police or file a direct criminal complaint against the witness who gave false evidence. The lawyer’s fate is determined by whatever statement written or given by the witness in the cause of the criminal trial or in the cause of criminal investigation! This procedure is what I do not see many lawyers doing and whereas, just one witness is good as a scape-goat! It is very unfortunate that some lawyers would take pride in defeating the cause of justice or in making their legal fees from giving ill-advice to their clients to give false evidence before a judicial proceedings! They even do this without the fear of God Almighty! They shall see what God would do to them and this is another reason why I pity those lawyers while they are alive (because of nemesis), in their graves and on the Day of Judgment before God Almighty! these lawyers have abused the privilege given to them by God Almighty by making them lawyers and as His Vicegerents on earth! They are second in command to the devil! Lawyers are however, in my humble view, meant to regard themselves as ‘Minister in the temple of justice’! They should also know that even though they are lawyers, they have ethical limitations in their legal representation and advice that they give to their clients and that they are not above the law or absolved criminally for the ill-advice that they give to their clients.
Therefore and finally, it is my humble submission and advice that lawyers must henceforth desist from advising and encouraging their clients to give false evidence before judicial proceedings, else, it might be a pity that the lawyer might be culpable in our courts in this life and before God Almighty on the Day of Judgment!