Data source
Date of text
20 May 2005
Country
Original language

English

Type of text
National - higher court
Reference number
Criminal Appeal Nos. SCA 1 – 4 of 2004
Court name
Seychelles Court of Appeal
Justice(s)
Ramodibedi, M.M.
Bwana, S.J.
Hodoul, J.M.
Sources
InforMEA
Keywords
penalty, protection of species, sanction, wild fauna

Seven Accused were convicted before the Supreme Court of Seychelles for offences under the Wild Animals and Bird Protection Act (Cap 143), and were sentenced to serve terms of 2 years imprisonment each for the unlawful possession of 1141 Kg of turtle meat and the killing of approximately 40 boobies being protected birds. Five of them appealed before the Seychelles Court of Appeal against the conviction.
Among others, the Court of Appeal dealt with the following questions: Was the prosecution witness qualified to give evidence as an expert? Was it fair for the trial court to prevent defense counsel from cross-examining on matters arising from the voire dire proceedings simply because the court had already ruled the statements of the accused in question admissible?
The Court emphasized that it is a general rule of law that the opinion of a witness is irrelevant because it is the function of a court to draw inferences and form its opinion from facts. Exceptions to the rule are experts in that, because of their experience and specialized study, they have a fixed standard and can give their evidence with certainty. The conviction of the Accused was based on the evidence of the Director of Conservation in the Ministry of Environment, who testified that in his opinion, the meat in question was turtle meat as well as bird meat.
The Court had to decide whether the Director could be called an expert, because only in this case his opinion could have been regarded as evidence against the Appellants. It defined the criteria for being an expert and came to the conclusion that the Supreme Court was wrong in accepting the evidence of the witness as expert evidence. It also held that the witness was not a neutral witness as he represented the line Ministry of Environment and therefore had personal interest in the matter.
The Court also observed that at Common Law no statement by an accused person can be given in evidence against him unless it was freely and voluntarily made. It also emphasized that the English common law has evolved the principle that an extra-judicial confession requires corrobation as a safeguard against a wrong conviction. The Appellants stated that their confessions were obtained by duress and threat of electrocution and therefore not voluntarily.
The Court held that it was a Constitutional right of the accused to address the Court through his counsel at the conclusion of the voir dire and that the Supreme Court acted against principle of a fair trial when it prevented the counsel from cross-examining on the issues arising from the voire dire with a view to showing that the confession was not voluntarily made. The Court acquitted the accused on all the counts they faced.