Justice, Due Process and the Rule of Law in Nigeria: the Story of Constable Thomas Shorunke, 1940–1946
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In 1940, Nigeria was just one of the four British West African dependencies. Her legal system was still at its infancy and its criminal justice system had just begun to unfold under the watchful but dominant eyes of imperial Britain. Still, in that year, up to 1946, an event of great import to the universally acclaimed doctrine of rule of law happened in the case of a police constable, Thomas Shorunke, who, in the face of daunting challenges and awesomeness of His Majesty, George VI’s (1936–1952) prosecutorial powers, clung to the doctrine to secure justice for himself and to chart a significant path for one of Nigeria’ most profound cases involving questions of the due process of law and substantial justice. In this paper, we show not just the history of the contest between a police officer and the King but, in addition, discuss an aspect of the history of judge-made laws under Nigeria’s criminal justice system and by so doing, document a major exercise in courage and tenacity demonstrated by a junior police officer under colonial rule.
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