As we have discussed in the previous sections, a person may only be arrested when:
An unlawful arrest is therefore the act of arresting someone without proper reason, without a warrant of arrest and without following at prescribed procedure for lawful arrest.
Some examples of an unlawful arrest are listed below:
In the case of Christie & another v. Leachinsky (1947)1 Al ER 567, the suspect was arrested without being told the reason for his arrest. Even though the officers might lawfully have arrested the suspect for the felony of stealing a bale of cloth, which they had reasonable grounds for suspecting, the police officer failed to inform the him the reason for his arrest. The court held the arrest to be unlawful, stating that “Under ordinary circumstances, the police should tell a person the reason for his arrest at the time they make the arrest. If a person’s liberty is being restrained, he is entitled to know the reason behind such restraint.” The only exception is when that person is in the actual commission of the crime, or escapes from the lawful custody as provided under Section 5 of the Criminal Procedure Act and similarly under Section 6 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015).
Complaints to the National Human Rights Commission: The National Human Rights Commission is established for the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria. If you feel your rights have been violated, you can file a complaint to the Commission.
Functions of the Human Rights Commission:
What is required to complete a human rights complaint form
To know more about the format of a formal complaint, visit https://nhrc.gov.ng/index.php/complaint-form. You can also visit the State branches of the National Human Rights Commission to lodge the complaint.
The Commission has quasi-judicial powers. This means to help with your complaint it can:
The decisions of the commission are enforced by taking that decision to the High Court and asking for it to be enforced.
Complaint to the Commissioner of Police: In the case of harm or disturbance by a police officer, a report should first be made to the Commissioner of Police.
Can I challenge unlawful detention in court? Yes. If no positive response is received, then you can evaluate with legal support whether to proceed to file a case in court to seek the enforcement of your right.
The Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure: If you feel your arrest was unlawful, and you want to challenge the arrest, check the A4J guide on Fundamental Rights enforcement procedure for practical guide on how to enforce your rights.
Note that the burden of proving an unlawful arrest rest on the claimant. That is, if you want to prove that your arrest is unlawful, the burden of proving such rests on you.
In order to strongly prove that your arrest was unlawful, you should consider obtaining the following evidence:
Getting all this evidence may take time and you may need to go to the scene of the arrest as well to find other witnesses and people who may have observed t the incident. This may be difficult if you’re in detention already. You may need the support of your lawyer and friends to help you gather those evidence.
Evidence will be relevant to prove key issues.
Key topics when deciding if an arrest was unlawful
Claims of wrongful arrest can be hinged on two major issues which will be analysed by a judge:
1.Whether or not the police should have believed that the person arrested had committed, is committing, or is likely to commit a criminal offense.
This refers to whether there was probable cause. Hence, where a reasonable man would have believed there was probable cause, then the arrest would be deemed lawful; otherwise, the arrest may be deemed unlawful.
2.Whether or not it was necessary to carry out the arrest. This implies if proper investigation could have actually continued to determine who exactly committed the crime in question without arresting the person.
Where proper investigation could have continued without arresting the person, the arrest may be deemed unlawful. It is pertinent to note that carrying out proper investigation or enquiry before securing an arrest is imperative, in order to avoid unnecessary infringements of people’s right to freedom.
To determine if an arrest was unlawful, the court would consider: