A dock statement is still evidence of a lesser weightage recognized in our law, the Court of Appeal observed in a recent judgment.

The Court of Appeal held that the dock statement is an unsworn statement lacking the probative value of formal evidence tested and filtered through cross-examination.

Court of Appeal Justice Nissanka Bandula Karunarathne made these observations while handing out a judgment in respect of an appeal filed by three accused who were convicted and sentenced to death for having murdered an individual at Wattala in 2001. This appeal had been filed bringing a legal argument that the High Court Judge (trial judge) who heard the case had failed to evaluate the statement made from the dock by the accused and had failed to give reasons for rejecting the same.

Three accused Hewa Dewage Cyril Priyaratne alias Lokka, Bulathwelage Sajeewa Priyantha alias Ranga, Bopearachchige Nandapala Perera had been sentenced to death for having committed murder, by causing the death of Vinod Idunil Krishantha on January 9, 2001, by committing an offence punishable under section 296 read with section 32 of the Penal Code.


Court of Appeal two-judge-bench comprising Justice Nissanka Bandula Karunarathne and Justice R. Gurusinghe held that the dock statements made by the accused-appellants were mere blanket denials of their involvement. ‘No specific plea of defence had been raised by any of the accused-appellants nor had any fresh material or evidence been introduced into the case formulating novel issues. In this regard, the High Court judge had not occasioned any failure of justice by rejecting the dock statement, the Court of Appeal held.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the decision of the trial judge to expressly reject the dock statement has not caused any prejudice to the accused-appellants since the defence had not raised any material issues at the trial which would have required serious deliberation.

The Court of Appeal further rejected the arguments put forward by accused-appellants that the High Court judge had failed to take into consideration the contradictory versions of evidence given by witnesses. The Court also rejected an argument of accused-appellants that the trial judge failed to take into consideration the principle relating to common murderous intention.

Accordingly, the Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction imposed by Negombo High Court on three accused-appellants.


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