Admission and confession 2023 (guide + case laws)

This post covers everything you need to know about admission and confession in criminal law.

Admission and confession are among the important issues in criminal liability.

Here you will learn

  • what is admission
  • what is a confession
    • Types of confession
    • Retracted confession
    • Repudiated confession
  • Difference between admission and confession
  • Admissions and confessions case laws
  • etc.

Let’s get started

What is admission?

Black’s Law Dictionary, defines admission as a voluntary acknowledgment made by a party of the existence of certain facts that are inconsistent with his claim in an action.

For example, when a person is charged with theft he may admit the loss of the property termed to be stolen.

However a court can not convict that person solely based on his admission, there must be sufficient proof that he is the one who stole the property.

An admission may be expressed verbally or in writing.

Also, an admission made by an authorized representative of a party to litigation may occasionally be admitted into evidence and attributed to that party.

What is a confession?

A confession within the context of criminal law is a statement, oral or written which admits all the essential elements or ingredients of the offense.

In other words, a confession is a direct acknowledgment of guilt by the accused. Here an accused person is voluntary and directly saying yes I’m guilty.

In confession, an admission of one or only some of the ingredients of the offense is not sufficient.

Types of confession

Confession may be retracted or repudiated.

Retracted confession

Retracted confession occurs when the accused, having made a confession later at his trial retracts it, usually by maintaining that it was not true, or the confusion has been procured from him as the result of ill-treatment or the threat of ill-treatment

Repudiated confession

Repudiated confession occurs when the accused maintains that he never made the confession at all, or that the record, probably through faulty translation does not represent what he actually said.

Generally retracted confession must be corroborated (supported by other evidence). The court can rely on it after being satisfied that it is true.

Further, confession is not automatically inadmissible simply because it resulted from threats or promise

Difference between admission and confession

The main difference between confession and admission is that confession refers to a direct acknowledgment of guilt by the person who has been accused of committing a crime. On the other hand, admission, while also being a voluntary statement, is merely the acknowledgment that a particular fact is true.

From our first example, when a person is charged with theft and states that he acknowledges the loss of the property termed to be stolen that is admission but when that person states that he admits the loss of the property and he is the one who maliciously took it, that is a confession

For more differences see the following table;

CONFESSIONADMISSION
acknowledgment of guiltacknowledgment of fact
Must be made by accusedMay be made by Any party to the proceedings or their agent or even by a third party
Apply only in a criminal caseApplying both, criminal and civil case
ConclusiveNeed to be supported by other evidence
Can be retractedCannot be retracted

Admissions and confessions case laws

The following cases demonstrate the implications of admissions and confessions in criminal cases.

SIMON KILOWOKO v REPUBLIC 1989 TLR 159 (HC)

Facts

In an appeal against a conviction for theft the appellate judge found that the appellant had admitted that there may have been a loss of money, but there was no sufficient proof that he stole the money.

Held

The admission that there may have been loss does not amount to admission to having stolen the money.

The prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the appellant committed the offense charged.

MATHEI FIDOLINE HAULE v REPUBLIC 1992 TLR 148 (CA)

Facts

The appellant assaulted his mother whom he believed to be a witch.

In convicting the appellant the trial judge relied on two pieces of evidence.

The first was a statement the appellant made to his village chairperson that he had assaulted his mother.

The second was a cautioned statement alleged to have been made by the appellant before a police officer who at the time of the trial was reported dead.

The trial judge treated both pieces of evidence as a confession.

Held

The mere admission by the appellant that he had assaulted his mother could not really be taken to amount to a confession to the offense of murder with all its essential ingredients, especially as at the time the appellant was making the admission the victim was still alive and receiving treatment at the hospital;

Confession cases

HEMED ABDALLAH v REPUBLIC 1995 TLR 172 (CA)

Theme: retracted confession must be corroborated. The court can rely on it after being satisfied that it is true.

Facts

The High Court convicted the appellant of murder on the basis of his retracted confession. Before convicting the court warned itself of the danger of basing the conviction on an uncorroborated retracted confession. On appeal, the appellant argued that the trial court’s conviction should be faulted because the learned Trial Judge did not give reasons why he relied on the uncorroborated confession.

Held

Generally, it is dangerous to act upon a repudiated or retracted confession unless it is corroborated in material particulars or unless the court, after full consideration of the circumstances, is satisfied that the confession must but be true;

Once the trial court warns itself of the danger of basing a conviction on uncorroborated retracted confession and having regard to all the circumstances of the case it is satisfied that the confession is true, it may convict on such evidence without any further ado;

It is not a requirement of the law that reasons have to be given for the trial court’s finding that there is no danger in accepting a retracted confession

The learned Trial Judge found no danger in founding a conviction on the confessional statement because he was satisfied that the confession was true.

THADEI MLOMO AND OTHERS v REPUBLIC 1995 TLR 187 (CA)

Theme: Involuntary confession is admissible if the court believes it to be true. Repudiated confessions can be used to support a conviction of a co-accused.

Facts

Three appellants appealed against the conviction of murder by the High Court.

In convicting two of the appellants the court relied on retracted confessions which had been made involuntarily but which the court admitted under s 29 of the Evidence Act, 1967.

The third appellant was convicted on the basis of the statements made by the co-accused.

On appeal two of the appellants challenged the trial court’s admission of the repudiated confessions.

The third appellant attacked his conviction which was based on the repudiated confessions of the co-accused.

Held

Under Section 29 of the Evidence Act 1967, an involuntary confession is admissible if the court believes it to be true.

There was corroborative evidence to support the conviction of the third appellant on the basis of the repudiated confessions of his co-accused.

MICHAEL LUHIYE v REPUBLIC 1994 TLR 181 (CA)

Theme: A court may convict on retracted confession even without corroboration.

Facts

The appellant, in this case, appealed against the conviction of the murder contrary to Section 196 of the Penal Code. He argued that the confession from him to the police was involuntary as he was subjected to violence before he made it; and that his confession was retracted but was nevertheless relied upon by the court without independent evidence to corroborate it.

Held

It is always desirable to look for corroboration in support of a retracted confession before acting on it but a court may convict on a retracted confession even without corroboration.

JOSEPHAT SOMISHA MAZIKU v REPUBLIC 1992 TLR 227 (HC)

Theme: Confession is not automatically inadmissible simply because it resulted from threats or promise

Facts

Josephat Somisha alias Maziku the appellant was at the material time, employed as a watchman by Tabora Region Co-operative Union.

On 1/5/90, it was discovered that 18 louver glasses had been extracted from windows and one typewriter was stolen.

Through interrogation by Sungusungu, the appellant confessed to having stolen the louver glasses but not the typewriter.

The appellant, in his cautioned statement to 7909 D/Cpl.

Benjamin further confessed to having stolen the louver glasses.

On the strength of this evidence, the trial Magistrate convicted the appellant on the charge of stealing by public servant c/s 270 and 265 of the Penal Code.

In his memorandum of appeal, the appellant contended that his confessions to the Sungusungu were extracted by threats and with violence.

Held

While it is trite law that the condition precedent for the admissibility of a confession is its voluntariness, a confession is not automatically inadmissible simply because it resulted from threats or promise, it is inadmissible only if the inducement or threat was of such a nature as was likely to cause an untrue admission of guilt.

Where you have threats and a confession far apart without a causal connection, and no chance of such threats inducing confession, such confession should be taken to be free of inducement, voluntary and admissible;

It is a principle of evidence that where a confession is, by reason of threat,  B  involuntarily made and is therefore inadmissible, a subsequent voluntary confession by the same maker is admissible, if the effect of the original torture, or threat, has before such subsequent confession, been dissipated and no longer the motive force behind such subsequent confession.

SHIHOBE SENI AND ANOTHER v REPUBLIC 1992 TLR 330 (CA)

Theme: A village chairman is a proper authority to take confession.

Facts

The appellants were convicted of murder and sentenced to suffer death by hanging. They appealed against both conviction and sentence attacking the evidence on the basis of which they were convicted.

The appellants were said to have made confessions that they later repudiated. Some of the confessions were made to the village chairman.

Held

A village chairman is a person in authority under section 27(3) of the Evidence Act and so a confession made to him is involuntary if the Court believes that it was induced by any threat, promise, or other prejudice.

There is not a thread of doubt that the confessions to the village chairman were not induced by threat, promise, or other prejudice.

Isack Kimaro
Isack Kimaro

Editor-in-chief and founder of sherianajamii.com. Holder of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. Lawyer by profession and blogger by passion