In criminal law, the right to silence gives an accused the right to refuse to answer questions from law enforcement officers. This right protects the accused from self-incrimination.
The prosecutor bears the burden of proof in a criminal matter. The defendant can just remain silent and let the police prove the case against him, beyond reasonable doubt.
But there may be consequences if you chose to remain silent.
Thus, law enforcement officers will always inform the accused of his right to silence during arrest and before taking his statement.
“You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
At this point, if there is a 50-50 chance of acquittal, or in cases of murder and armed robbery where the sentence is the same whether you talked or not, it is advisable to remain silent.
But in a lesser charge, if it is certain that you are guilty, it would be better to talk otherwise if you are eventually found guilty, the punishment will be greater than if you’d responded to police questions.
This takes me to the case between Nigeria Police v Senator Bukola Saraki (Senate president). Senator Saraki is accused of armed robbery and everybody knows that the police are trying to frame him.
The police insist that Saraki has questions to answer regarding the robbery at Offa. And because the police are so desperate to frame Saraki they have forgotten that Saraki has the right to silence.
I wonder why Saraki’s lawyers have allowed him to talk to the police in the first place, since they know the police wants to frame him.
If I were representing Saraki, I will simply write to the police that my client wants to exercise his right to silence. Challenge the police prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, if they can.
In my opinion, this Saraki’s matter is one of those cases where silence is golden.