The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal on Thursday upheld a previous ruling by a Lagos State High Court, confirming a five-year prison sentence for Nollywood actor Olanrewaju James, also known as Baba Ijesha, for the sexual assault of a minor aged 14.

The Court of Appeal, in a judgment delivered by Justice Folashade Ojo, upheld the conviction of Baba Ijesha on two counts, specifically indecent touching and sexual assault of a 14-year-old minor.

Justices Abdullahi Bayero and Paul Bassi concurred with the lead judgment, aligning themselves with Justice Folashade Ojo’s decision.

Justice Folashade Ojo delivered a judgment setting aside Baba Ijesha’s conviction for indecent treatment and sexual assault, citing that the testimony of the prosecution’s witness (PW1), Damilola Adekoya, was hearsay, and therefore, unreliable.

However, Justice Ojo ruled that the testimony of Adekoya was a credible eyewitness account of the events that occurred on April 19, 2021 and that eyewitness testimony is a reliable and effective way to prove the commission of a crime.

Furthermore, the court noted that the appellant had voluntarily confessed to the crime committed on April 19, 2021, and failed to dispute or challenge Adekoya’s statement throughout the entire proceedings.

Justice Ojo observed that the appellant made two confessional statements, one at the Sabo Police Station in Lagos State on April 19, 2021, and another at the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti on April 28, 2021, both of which were admitted as evidence in court.

The court found that in both statements, the appellant confessed to indecently touching and molesting the minor (PW2) while she was alone with him in Adekoya’s (PW1) apartment.

Justice Ojo held, “The law is certain that there is no other evidence other than admission in the commission of an offence.

“From the totality of the evidence of PW2 it can be safely inferred that as at the date of the victim’s testimony, she was at best 15 years old and a child by virtue of Section 261 of the Child’s Rights Law of Lagos State, 2015.

The judge added, “I have carefully looked at the record and unable to agree with the appellant, that he was merely acting a script. The interaction between PW2 and the appellant on the 19th of April, 2021 was not a theatrical performance of make-believe but a personal encounter between the two of them.

“Moreover, PW2’s (victim) body language supported by her oral testimony and documentary evidence clearly shows that she attempted to distance herself from the appellant. The most inference to draw from appellant’s action in searching the entire house immediately after PW1 left with her visitors and sexually assaulting PW2 is that he intended to commit the offence, and did commit the offence.

“It’s trite that factual findings of the trial court involving the credibility of witnesses are accorded almost respect. Trial courts have the advantage of first-time observation, which allows them to assess witnesses’ demeanour and manner of testifying during the trial.

The judge concluded that the evidence presented by the prosecution before the trial court on the offence of indecent treatment of a child, and sexual assault committed by Baba Ijesha on April 19, 2021, is compelling and sufficient to justify the appellant’s conviction.

“In conclusion, I have no hesitation in affirming the appellant’s conviction for the indecent treatment of a child, and sexual assault.

“The appellant indecently touched PW2’s body in a sexual manner, in violation of Section 135 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015. His actions constitute sexual assault against PW2.

“I am of the view that the respondent discharges the burden proving its case beyond reasonable doubt against the appellant on the allegations of April 19, 2021, and I so hold. I have no reason to interfere with the findings of the trial court on the event of April 19, 2021.

“In all, I hold that this appeal succeed in part and it accordingly allowed in part.”

The court ordered as follows, “The appellant’s conviction and sentence to 5 years imprisonment for the offence of indecently touching of a child contrary to Section 135 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011 (count 2 of the charge) is set aside.

“The Appellant conviction of 3 years imprisonment for the offence of sexual assault of a child contrary to section 261 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011 (count 3 of the charge) is set aside.

“I affirm the conviction and sentence of the appellant to 5 years imprisonment for the offence of indecent treatment of a child contrary to section 135 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2015 (count 4 of the charge)

“The appellant’s conviction and sentence to 3 years imprisonment for sexual assault contrary to section 263 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011 (count 5 of the information) is also affirmed.

“The sentences for counts 4 and 5 are to run concurrently.”

Baba Ijesha was prosecuted by the Lagos State Government on a six-count charge, including indecent treatment of a child, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault by penetration, and sexual assault by penetration.

On July 14, 2022, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo (rtd) of the Ikeja Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Court sentenced Baba Ijesha to five years in prison.

Source:- Punchng



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