- June 29, 2019
- Posted by: Stephen Azubuike
- Categories: Legal Explainer, Opinions
In an exclusive video interview with YNaija on 28 June, 2019, Mrs. Busola Dakolo (popular photographer and wife of musician, Timi Dakolo) recounted how she was allegedly raped by Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, Senior Pastor at the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), when she was 16. Mrs. Dakolo’s story emits of strong emotions and serious concerns that casts aspersions on the integrity of the Pastor who had before now, been in the news for sexual scandals.
Busola’s story is a sad one. Like every other narrative, the story can be subjected to critical examination by any well trained philosophical and logical thinking mind. The story has some meritorious undertones but at the same time, smacks of some incoherence capable of triggering doubts in the mind of the listener/reader. Meanwhile, in a swift reaction, Pastor Fatoyinbo has denied the allegations in strict terms and has threatened to take legal actions against Mrs. Dakolo for alleged character assassination.
Who do we believe?
In the “court” of public opinion, it is absolutely difficult to know whom to believe because of the vulnerability of people, especially many who are not trained to subject stories to test by the fire of cross-examination, like we see in courts of law. Even in courts of law, Judges rely on evidence (oral, documentary and surrounding circumstances) presented before the court to decide cases. Where evidence is lacking or where a case is badly presented, the case may be entirely lost regardless of how true it is. This underscores the limitations of mere mortals because no human, including the Judge, is omnipresent, omnipotent or omniscient.
The story of Busola already has its impact in the whole public space, causing the all-important topic on rape and vulnerability of young people (especially) to be thrown up for continued discussion.
Nonetheless, if Busola feels strongly about the alleged incident and desires to press charges, and if Pastor Fatoyinbo is confident about his innocence (and claim of defamation), the court is ready for an interesting critical examination of the stories and issues.
Legal points to note
While we look forward to the legal battles, let us consider a few salient points.
No time limitation in criminal cases
In civil cases, the law usually provides a time limit within which a person may sue to enforce rights. For instance, in contract cases, you have 6 years while in tort cases (i.e., civil wrongs like defamation of character), you have 3 years to file the suit. In land cases, you have about 12 years. If you fail to file a lawsuit within these periods, your right is forever gone. In technical term, your case is said to have become statute-barred.
However, in criminal cases such as rape, there is no time limitation. The rationale behind this is that the law strictly stands against commission of any kind of crime in order to make the society a safer place and reduce incidences of crime. The law seeks to prevent anyone from taking advantage of time to escape justice. Thus, Pastor Fatoyinbo can be made to answer to any criminal allegation of rape which may be leveled against him in court at the instance of Busola, notwithstanding the alleged incident occurred years ago.
Evidence is key in court cases
Evidence plays a central role in court cases. As stated above, in courts of law, Judges rely on evidence presented before the court to decide cases. This evidence can be in the form of oral testimonies (of witnesses), documents and surrounding circumstances. In the latter, the courts do what is commonly known as “joining two and two together” to come to a logical conclusion. The court will not agree with Busola because of her beautiful face, sweet voice or tear drops. Neither will the court be “bought over” by Pastor Biodun’s affluence, influence and robust stance. No. Judges are trained to stand above sentimental considerations and suppress emotions in determining cases. She has to present believable evidence to succeed.
It must be mentioned that rape cases are quite sensitive in that it is mostly committed in secrecy. By the nature of the offence, it is committed once a man’s penis penetrates the vagina of a woman without her consent. The slightest penetration is sufficient as it is immaterial the assailant did not have full blown ecstatic penetration leading to the climax of ejaculation. The fact of secrecy makes evidence of witnesses other than the victim mostly unavailable. It is difficult to rely solely on the evidence of the victim but not impossible. Usually, it is advised that once a rape incident occurs, the victim should undergo medical examination and obtain reports indicating either the rupture of the hymen, bruises on the vagina, blood stains, etc.
It is also compelling to consider why a public figure like Busola would boldly step into the spotlight to publicly declare she was raped by a named individual. While we stress that this is not one of the factors a court must consider, it is however disturbing. Even Pastor Fatoyinbo admits that, “Looking at her status and that of her husband, I am dumbfounded why she would say such a thing.”
Evidence of previous crime cannot sustain a current criminal charge
The point here is that if there is evidence of previous crime committed by a person, the court will not rely on that to find a person guilty of a particular new charge. For instance, the court cannot find Pastor Fatoyinbo guilty of allegedly raping Busola because of any previous sexual assault allegations like that leveled by Ese Walter sometime ago. This is even more so where the allegations remain legally unproven. The legal principle is that evidence of bad character is inadmissible to establish a criminal charge. However, interestingly, the law states that if the accused person leads evidence of his good character, then any evidence of his previous bad conduct would be admissible.
Criminal allegations must be proved beyond reasonable doubt
The position of the law is that if there exist doubts which the court consider reasonable, an accused person would be set free. It is immaterial that he possibly committed the offence. The rationale behind this is that the law does not desire that any innocent person should suffer. However, the requirement for proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond every shadow of doubt. Therefore, some criminal convictions may be secured in the presence of some doubtful elements. The courts have the formula for working out the impact of doubts on criminal prosecution. In view of this, any possible doubt in Busola’s story does not imply the case must fail.
Justification defeats any claim on defamation
The law seeks to protect the image and goodwill of persons from being terribly reduced in the eyes of right thinking members of the public. This is the reason the law compensates for any proven case of defamation of a person’s character by award of damages (money). Now, when a person claims (s)he has been defamed, it is an absolute defence that the story behind the alleged defamation is true. This is known as defence of justification. Therefore, if Busola’s story is proven to be true, Pastor Fatoyinbo cannot claim defamation. His reported allegations on “blackmail, harassment and intimidation” may also not thrive. In the view of the law, a person with questionable character has no character to protect. By this, the law does not discourage anybody from speaking up. It is not enough for Pastor Fatoyinbo to rely on reputation. The court will not be moved by his status in the society to conclude that he has been defamed.
Side notes and concluding remarks
Away from the legal perspectives, it is perhaps necessary to speak to other implications of the current unpalatable story. One would ordinarily wonder the reason Pastor Fatoyinbo is facing all these sexual assault allegations. A safe conjecturing may tend to suggest that the handsome Pastor must have been finding himself at the wrong spots at the wrong time. As mentioned above, it is really disturbing why a popular personality like Mrs. Dakolo would boldly tell the world she was raped by a named individual at the risk of possible societal stigma.
The message is that, whether or not the story is true, what is certain is that the damage done by sexual assaults tend to be irreparable. In as much as the law is there to protect you whenever you are ready to talk and take legal actions against your perpetrators, it is best to pursue whatever crime that has been committed against you as soon as possible because you have a greater chance of securing justice. Silence reduces chances of getting justice or escaping civil liability for suits touching on defamation.
That said, it is acknowledged that this sensitive issue could most times be difficult and complicated to manage. There are organisations working to assist victims in those trying times by offering the necessary counseling, healing and even legal assistance.
Now, who do we believe, Busola or Fatoyinbo? If they are ready, the Law is ready.
Featured Image Credit: Dailypost.ng.