Dr Twomey unveils new evidence manual for judicial officers |02 October 2023
A new evidence manual for judicial officers was unveiled at the Palais de Justice auditorium on Friday afternoon.
The academic work is the result of a collaborative effort involving Justice Mathilda Twomey, as the main writer and editor, and collaborators Joelle Barnes, Professor Jocelyn Hackett from Cornell Law School in New York, and Michelle Ebrahim.
Asides from her role as Court of Appeal judge, Justice Twomey is also Academic Director of the Judicial Institute for Africa (JIFA) at the University of Cape Town, which is a partnership between the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU) and the Southern African Chief Justices Forum (SACJF). Dr Twomey’s dual role inspired the manual.
Drawing from her experience as a trial judge in Seychelles, Dr Twomey highlighted the challenges she faced in resolving issues related to the admissibility of evidence quickly. This was important to ensure that trials proceeded efficiently yet fairly.
The manual delves into the historical roots of evidence law in the common-law, its evolution, and its practical applications in thirteen countries in southern and eastern Africa. These nations, including Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, all share a colonial history. This history involved the introduction of British common-law principles of evidence law through cases and colonial Evidence Acts or Criminal Procedure Codes.
“The law of evidence is something which I believe Seychellois would like to understand better, because I think that a number who have exposure to court cannot understand when the judge states that they cannot accept certain evidence. There are a few rules. Even if sometimes we would like to do a case a certain way, we cannot do it a certain way as we have to follow proof laws or evidence laws.
“My target is Attorneys and law students in Seychelles, especially considering the recent launch of the University of Seychelles’ new degree programme focusing on Seychelles’ laws. This book will be a valuable resource for them,” Dr Twomey added.
She pointed out that this manual doesn’t cover everything about evidence law, as it is extensive. Instead, it focuses on the most crucial topics to help judges.
In the first part of each chapter, it explains the basic principles of the law related to that topic and how it has changed over time, even after these countries gained independence. It also looks at how similar laws work in other common-law countries to give context.
The last part of every chapter offers a concise look at how the same area of law operates in each of the countries researched.
Conducting research across numerous jurisdictions posed a challenge, especially in African regions where a consistent history of publishing legislation and case law is not always evident. Fortunately, the AfricanLII and LII initiatives, operating on a global scale, have played a significant role in addressing this issue. The existence of SeyLII and similar Legal Information Institutes (LIIs) across Africa proved to be fundamental to the creation of the manual, Dr Twomey added.
The manual was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Project Development Specialist for Democracy and Governance of USAID Pretoria, Paula Van Dyck, briefly spoke about the relationship between USAID and JIFA, dating back to ten years ago.
Ms Van Dyck emphasised the significance of comprehending the needs of end users when crafting instructional manuals. She commended JIFA for its efforts in capacity building despite having limited resources, adding that the progress made thus far is significant.
President Wavel Ramkalawan, who is also the Chancellor of UniSey, and Chief Justice Rony Govinden were presented with the first copies.
In attendance for the launch were former President of the Court of Appeal Francis MacGregor, Justices of Appeal, Judges of the Supreme Court, Magistrates, the Registrar, and other dignitaries.
Photos by Joena Meme