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Daniel Prince
, Nigeria.
An evidence is any material item or assertion of fact that may be submitted to a competent tribunal as a means of ascertaining the truth of any alleged matter of fact under investigation before it. The Black's Law Dictionary defines evidence as "something, including testimony, documents and tangible objects that tends to prove or disprove the existence of an alleged facts." As similar definition has been given by James B. Thayer in his essay "presumptions and the Law of Evidence." Here, he defined evidence as any matter of fact which is furnished to a legal tribunal, otherwise than by reasoning or a reference to what is noticed without proof as the basis of inference in ascertaining some other matters of facts. Below are some of the types of judicial evidence:

Direct evidence:

Black's Law Dictionary defines direct evidence as evidence that is based on personal knowledge or observation and that, if true, proves a fact without inference or presumption. In oral evidence or testimony, the direct evidence consists of either the testimony of the witness who perceives the facts with his objective senses or the production of the original document which constitutes the facts in issue. In fact, direct evidence is evidence of a fact in issue. This is so because the evidence relates directly to the very issue which is the subject of judicial inquiry.

In OJURI ANJOLA V. THE STATE (CA/AK/39/11) [2012] NGCA 16 (04 DECEMBER 2012) the court defined Direct evidence as evidence of fact in issue. When it is testimonial evidence, it is the evidence of a witness who claims personal knowledge of the fact he testifies about.

Circumstantial evidence:

In KINGSLEY OMOREGIE VS. THE STATE (SC. 334/2012)[2017] NGSC 20 (2 JUNE 2017) the court defined circumstantial evidence thus,

"a circumstantial evidence is nothing more than evidence of surrounding circumstances which by their nature is capable of establishing a proposition, such as the criminality of an accused with the highest exactitude. It is a combination of evidence of circumstances against an accused when taken together, creates strong conclusions of his guilt with high degree of certainty. It is by
application very sparingly used for possible fear of fabrication and casting suspicion on an innocent person."

Conversely, in circumstantial evidence, the court will accept evidence from which it can infer that a particular fact or facts exist or do not exist. Thus, circumstantial evidence is evidence not of the fact in issue; but, of other facts from which the facts in issue could be inferred. The rationale for circumstantial evidence was stated in Udo-debia and Ors. v. The State (1976) 1 SC 133, by the Supreme Court as follows:

“where direct testimony of an eye witness is not available, the court is permitted to infer from the facts proved, the existence of other facts that may be logically inferred”.

For circumstantial evidence to be admissible in a criminal trial, it must be irresistibly conclusive that the accused person must have done what constitutes the fact in issue. Also, for circumstantial evidence to warrant a conviction it must be cogent and compelling and there must be no aspect of the case which weakens or destroys any inference as to the guilt of the accused person that could be drawn from the circumstantial evidence.

Hearsay evidence:

In Judicial Service Committee v Omo (1990) 6 NWLR 407 PT 415, the court defined hearsay evidence as that pieces of Evidence which does not derive it value solely from the credit given to the evidence itself, but which rest also, in part, on the veracity and competence of another person. If the fact to which a person is giving testimony does not come from his own knowledge; but, rather from a report of what he/she was told by another, then that piece of evidence is hearsay and is generally inadmissible in court.

The rational for the exclusion of hearsay evidence is succinctly stated by the learned authors, Cross and Tapper when they said:

"It is largely because of the increased danger of impaired perception, bad memory, ambiguity and insincerity, coupled with the decreased effectiveness of conventional safeguards, that hearsay is regarded as a particularly vulnerable as to require a special exclusionary rule."

Documentary evidence:

Documentary evidence is a statement contained in a document tendered as a means of proving a fact. According to section 258 of the Evidence Act, 2011, ‘document’ includes -

A. Books, maps, plans, graphs, drawings, photographs, and also includes any matter expressed or described upon any substance by means of letters, figures or marks or by more than one of these means, intended to be used or which may be used for the purpose of recording that matter;

B. Any disc, tape, sound track or other device in which sounds or other data (not being visual images) are embodied so as to be capable (with or without the aid of some other equipment) of being reproduced from it, and

C. Any film, negative, tape or other device in which one or more visual images are embodied so as to be capable (with or without the aid of some other equipment) of being reproduced from it; and

D. Any device by means of which information is recorded, stored or retrievable including computer output.

Generally, where documentary evidence is tendered, no oral version of the same evidence is admissible. A document becomes an exhibit when tendered. Indeed, documentary evidence, it is said, speaks for itself. The meaning of this is that no extrinsic evidence is admissible to contradict documentary evidence.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, a person can plead to vary the contents of a document on the ground that at the time that the document was executed, the person did not have the requisite capacity by virtue of being a minor, an insane person, and so on.


By way of summary, it is important to point that of the many criteria and rules that govern the admission and use of any type of evidence in a trial, one of the most important is that of relevance. If the evidence does not relate directly or indirectly to the issue at hand, it should not be admitted as proof for either the prosecution or the defense in the case. The adjective relevant in this context simply means that the evidence in question is closely connected or logically related to the matter at hand.

Source: bscholarly.com/types-of-evidence/

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