Suicide is defined as the act of intentionally taking one’s own life. The Criminal Law of Lagos 2015 (“the Law”) provides that anyone caught attempting to commit suicide will be adjudged guilty of a simple offence and same will warrant the grant of a hospitalisation order. However, the Law also provides that anyone caught abetting suicide by procuring, counselling, inducing or aiding another person to kill himself will be adjudged guilty of a felony and same will be ground conviction to imprisonment for life. For the purpose of clarity, the relevant provisions of Law are reproduced below:
Section 234: Aiding suicide
- Any person who –
- procures another to kill himself;
- counsels another to kill himself;
- induces another to kill himself; or
- aids another in killing himself
commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.
Section 235: Attempting to commit suicide
Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a simple offence and the court shall make a hospitalisation order.
While the section 235 on attempting to commit Suicide is very commendable, this article contemplates a situation where one who is caught attempting to commit suicide is stopped in the act, but such person then alleges that another person induced him to commit suicide. In other words, the provision of section 234 of the Law does not permit the inclusion of guilty knowledge; the purported abettor’s awareness of the suicidal tendencies of the suicide victim and same makes no provision as to guilty intent. As such, in a situation where there are two alternating parties; if one of them angrily tells the other to go hang himself will that qualify as aiding suicide by inducing such person to kill himself. The actions described in the said section 234 of the Law have been drafted in such a way that they could ground conviction on a strict liability basis without provision of a possible means of making recourse to deducing guilty intent. This is contrary to the maxim that there cannot be a guilty act without a guilty intent.
It is the position of this article that elucidation need be made especially in respect of guilty intent; perhaps by providing elements/ingredients of the offence of aiding suicide, so that our Courts will not have to embark on a voyage of discovery anytime they are faced with a situation where the offence of aiding suicide is alleged due to the fact that there is a significant deficit in details.
SUICIDE LAWS: THE CRIMINAL LAW OF LAGOS 2015 AS A CASE STUDY