#Legal Sense

Liability for malafide report

By Funmilayo Olagunju

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A report is said to be malafide when it is made in bad faith. Since the intent of a person might not be easily known, the action is considered as a reflection of the intention.

A citizen is at liberty to make report to the Police or other Law enforcement agencies. However, the liberty is not infinite as there is a liability for malafide report made to Law enforcement agencies.

A common example of malafide report is to report a civil matter (a grievance that is not defined as a crime by any Law) to the Police. The primary duty of the Police as contained in Section 4 of the Police Act is the prevention of crime, investigation and detection of crime and the prosecution of offenders.

Civil wrongs and disputes should not be reported to the Police. A typical example is debt recovery. A creditor should seek legal redress for debt recovery rather than instigating the arrest of a debtor as indebtedness is not a crime.

Offences unknown to the Law should not be reported to the Police. A typical example is the act of initiating the arrest of a man for putting a Lady in a family way. The consensual act of two adults resulting into pregnancy is not a crime.

In the case of OKAFOR V. AIG POLICE II ONIKAN & ORS (2019) LPELR-46505, the Court held:

“When a person reports a purely civil matter to the Police, such a person cannot go scot-free, as the report ought not to have been made at all since it is not within the purview of Police duties.

It is a report made mala fide and he will be equally liable for the action taken by the Police irrespective of whether he actively instigated them or not, since he had no business involving the Police in a purely civil matter in the first place.

Such conduct, which portrays a disregard of the law and is aimed at using the coercive powers of the State to punish a contracting party in a purely civil matter ought to be mulcted in exemplary damages”

Whenever there is a civil dispute, the Law enforcement agencies should not be used as a tool of punishment or oppression. It is not safe to make malafide report against a person as such report might make its maker liable to pay damages and to tender public apology to the affected person.

“Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm”

Proverbs 3:30

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