Meaning and Nature of Criminal Responsibility
The concept of criminal responsibility has been defined differently by different people. However, criminal responsibility generally can be said to mean “to be responsible for a criminal act whereby the perpetrator must understand what they are doing and that it is wrong.”
- Have the capacity to understand what he is doing.
- Capacity to know that he ought not to do the act or make the omission; and
- Capacity to control his actions.
Moreso, the penal code provides in respect of criminal responsibility that a person is presumed, unless the contrary is proved, to have knowledge of any material fact if such fact is a matter of common knowledge.
Under the Nigerian jurisprudence, one cannot be punished for an act or omission of such an act is not imbedded in any written law operational in Nigeria. This principle is imbedded in the latin maxim-“Nulla poena sine lege” which means there can be no punishment without a written law.
CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY IN LAW
Also, one cannot be criminally responsible for an act or omission unless such a person has attained a certain age. Under the criminal code, a person under the age of seven is not criminally responsible for any act or omission; Moreso, a person under the age of twelve Is not criminally responsible for an act or omission, unless it is proved that at the time of doing the act or making the omission he had capacity to know that he ought not to do the act or make the omission; and a male person under the age of twelve is presumed to be incapable of having carnal knowledge of a person.
In the case of NKWUDA V. THE QUEEN, Wali J.S.C., stated thus:-
“Be it noted that mere absence of motive for a crime however atrocious it may be, in the absence of proof of insanity, or evidence of drunkenness that produces such a degree of madness, even for a time, as to render the accused incapable of distinguishing right from wrong cannot avail the appellant of the defense provided in section 28 and 29 of the criminal code.”
For an adult to be criminally responsible for an act or omission, he must have a mental knowledge of his actions. That is to say the act the reus must correspond with the mens rea as they are necessary elements for the valid constitution of criminal responsibility.