17 June 2024


International Cases

Mabaso vs. The State

South Africa

09.07.2021

Criminal

A confession by an accused shall not be admissible as evidence against his or her co-accused

The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the evidence of a single witness was reliable and acceptable considering that the witness was declared a hostile witness. The Appellant was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on the basis of inconsistent statements, implicating the appellant, made by her co-accused.

The High Court accepted that, the State did not lead direct evidence implicating the Appellant in the killing of the deceased and that a previous inconsistent statement is only admissible to discredit the witness and not as the evidence of the facts stated therein. However, after evaluating the evidence, the high Court concluded that the previous inconsistent statement was interlinked with all the evidence which proved the guilt of the appellant.

The High Court clearly misdirected itself by failing to recognise that, the co-accused’s previous inconsistent statement, was only admissible to discredit him. It was not admissible as evidence against the Appellant. The fact that, the co-accused was a single witness against the Appellant, as well as an accomplice, the Supreme Court held further, was an insurmountable obstacle against the State. A previous inconsistent statement was only admissible to discredit the witness, but not as the evidence of the facts stated therein. In Makhubela vs. S the Constitutional Court confirmed that extra-curial confessions and admissions tendered by an accused are inadmissible against a co-accused and, therefore, cannot be used against a co-accused.

A confession by an accused shall not be admissible as evidence against his or her co-accused. The contradictions in all three statements made by the co-accused and his testimony should have alerted the high Court to be on its guard and find the co-accused to be an untrustworthy witness and consequently find his evidence to be unsatisfactory. The Appellant’s conviction for murder is set aside.

Tags : Conviction Evidence Credibility

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