CAN THE BAD CHARACTER OF A PERSON BE CALLED IN EVIDENCE DURING CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS?
Evidence that an accused person is of bad character is generally irrelevant in criminal proceedings. The reason for the exclusion of evidence of bad character is that it may prejudice the mind of the court. It may also lead the court to a hasty conclusion that the accused committed the offence.
However, the bad character of an accused person/Defendant would be called in evidence in the following cases:
- When the bad character of the accused person/Defendant is in fact an issue.
- When the accused/Defendant has given evidence of his bad character.
- An accused/ Defendant may be asked questions to show that he is of bad character in the circumstances mentioned in paragraph (c ) of the proviso to Section 180 : which provides that: when the only witness to the facts of the case called by the defence is the person charged, he shall be called as a witness immediately after the close of the evidence for the prosecution. Whenever evidence of bad character is admissible, evidence of a previous conviction is also admissible.
- In cases where subsection (4) above of this section applies, the court shall only admit evidence of previous convictions which are related in substance to the offence charged.
- Evidence of a previous conviction shall require proof.