Res Gestae’, it has been said, is a phrase adopted to provide a respectable legal cloak for a variety of cases to which no formula of precision can be applied’.  The words themselves simply mean a transaction.  Under the inclusionary common law doctrine of Res Gestae, a fact or opinion which is so closely associated in time, place and circumstances with some act or event which is in issue that it can be said to form a part of the same transaction as the act or event in issue, is itself admissible in evidence.  The justification given for the reception of such evidence is the light that it sheds upon the act or event in issue: in its absence, the transaction in question may not be fully or truly understood and may even appear to be meaningless, inexplicable and unintelligible.  The importance of the doctrine, for present purposes, is its provision for the admissibility of statements relating to the performance, occurrence or existence of some act, event or state of affairs which is in issue.  Such statements may be received by way of exception to the hearsay rule.

Res Gestae forms part of hearsay.

R V. BEDINGFIELD  [1879] Vol. 14 Cox C.C. 341

A girl was living with her boyfriend until the relationship turned sour.  The boyfriend allegedly cut her throat.  She managed to run out even with a cut throat and managed to say ‘see what Harry (Bedingfield) has done to me’.  In court the question arose as to whether this statement could be admitted in evidence.  Lord Justice Cockburn was emphatic that it could not be admitted.  He said that it was not part of the transaction, that it was said after the transaction was all over.  (The transaction being the cutting of the throat) The Judge held that it was not admissible as part of the Res Gestae since it was something stated by her after it was all over.” The girl said after it was all over.

Under S. 33 of Law of Evidence Act, this would have been admitted.
33.         Statements, written or oral, of admissible facts made by a person who is dead, or who cannot be found, or who has become incapable of giving evidence or whose attendance cannot be procured, or whose attendance cannot be procured without an amount of delay or expense which in the circumstances of the case appears to the court unreasonable, are themselves admissible in the following cases—

(a)          When the statement is made by a person as to the cause of his death, or as to any of the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in his death, in cases in which the cause of that person’s death comes into question and such statements are admissible whether the person who made them was or was not, at the time when they were made, under expectation of death, and whatever may be the nature of the proceeding in which the cause of his death comes in question;

R V. Premji Kurji [1940] E.A.C.A 58

In this case the accused was charged with murder, the deceased had been killed with a dagger and there was evidence that the accused had been found standing over the deceased body with a dagger dripping with blood.  The prosecution adduced evidence that a few minutes before, the accused had been seen assaulting the deceased’s brother with a dagger and he had uttered words to the effect that ‘I have finished with you, I am now going to deal with your brother’.  The question was whether this statement was admissible as forming part of the transaction.   Is that part of the same transaction as the murder.  Were the words uttered part of the same transaction.  It was held that they were part of the same transaction because when two acts of an accused person are so interwoven as to form part of the same transaction, it is not proper to shut out evidence of one of the acts even though it may involve introducing evidence of the commission of another offence. 



A Girl was living in the village with her parents and she was allegedly raped by the accused.  After the rape incident, she unlocked the door and ran over to her parents’ house, a few paces away from the accused’s house.  She got hold of her father’s hand and took him to the accused house.  She pointed to the accused person and said ‘daddy, this is the Bwana’ and the question was whether this statement was part of the transaction.   The transaction here is rape, which is already finished by the time she goes to call her daddy.  Is it admissible?   The court held that it was not part of the transaction.  The transaction was already over. 

Different courts have different conception of what forms part of the transaction.  The court in this rape case adopted a conservative view of what formed the transaction.

TEPPER V. R [1952] A.C 480

In that case there was a fire some place and a house was burning and the lady was heard to ask somebody who looked like the accused some minutes later ‘your house is burning and you are running away’ the question was whether this statement was part of the transaction as the fact in issue the fact in issue being Arson.  It was held to be part of the transaction.

R V. CHRISTIE 1914 AC 545

The accused was convicted of indecent assault on a boy.  The boy gave un-sworn evidence in which he described the assault and identified the accused but made no reference to any previous identification.  The House of Lords, by a majority of five to two, held that both the boy’s mother and a constable had been properly allowed to give evidence that shortly after the alleged act they saw the boy approach the accused, touch his sleeve and identify him by saying, ‘That is the man’.  Evidence of the previous identification was admissible as evidence of the witness’s consistency, ‘to show that the witness was able to identify at the time’ and ‘to exclude the idea that the identification of the prisoner in the dock was an afterthought or mistake.


This case had to do with statements made by participants in or observers of events.  Thus in this case it was decided that what a wife said immediately upon the hurt was received and before she had time to devise or contrive anything for her own advantage was held to be admissible in evidence.


R V. RATTEN [1972] A.C 378

Ratten was charged with the murder of his wife. He offered the defence of accident.  He said that he was cleaning his gun and it accidentally went off injuring his spouse.  There was nobody else at the scene of crime or at the point where this incident occurred and the prosecution sought to tender evidence of a girl who worked with the telephone exchange who said that a call had had been made from the accused house at about the time of the murder.   The girl said that the voice on the phone betrayed emotion, she was begging to have the police called over and before the operator could link the woman with the police the phone hang up on the woman side.  The question was, was the statement by the telephone operator admissible as part of the transaction?  Did it happen contemporaneously with the facts in issue?  The court held that the evidence of the telephone operator was admissible and in explaining why the Privy Council explained that the important thing was not whether the words were part of the transaction.  The important thing was whether the words were uttered during the drama.  The court also said that the particular evidence of the operator contradicted the evidence which was to the effect that the only telephone call outside from his house during the murder was only a call for an ambulance.

Section 7

7.        Facts which are the occasion, cause or effect, immediate or otherwise, of relevant facts or facts in issue, or which constitute the state of things under which they happened or which afforded an opportunity for their occurrence or transaction are relevant.”

They will be those facts which will afford the opportunity to the facts in issue.  The occasion may not be a fact in issue but it helps us understand the fact in issue or relevant facts.


John Makindi V. R          EALR 327

The accused in this case was charged with the murder of a boy over whom he stood in loco parentis (foster father) to.  In his defence the accused averred that the deceased was epileptic trying to explain away the injuries on the boy and how they may have occurred.  Medical evidence showed that the boy had died due to severe bleeding in the head and a doctor testified that there were blood clots in the boy’s head which had opened causing a lot of blood to flow from the deceased’s head and therefore occasioning his death.  The prosecution tendered evidence that the accused had previously beaten up this boy and had previously been convicted for beating up this boy and he had threatened the boy with further beatings on account of having been convicted.  The question was whether evidence of previous beating was admissible.  The court held yes that the evidence of previous beatings was admissible in the circumstances?  Could the court admit the evidence of past beatings?  The court held that the beatings of earlier beatings was admissible because having taken the evidence of blood clots at the head, it was important to know the cause of the blood clots and the evidence of the previous beatings was admissible as a fact leading to the bleeding and ultimate death.

The cause of things or relevant facts or facts in issue will be admitted to explain the cause of death.  E.g. the opening of the blood clots and loss of lots of blood.  The previous beatings showed us the cause and was thus admissible, so the cause of things and the cause of relevant issues will be admitted.  They explain the cause of death like in this case.


R V RABIN & ANOTHER [1947] Vol. 14 E.A.C.A 80

In this case there was a charge of corruption and the prosecution tried to lead evidence of a previous shady dealing in which the two persons whose conduct was in issue were involved.  The question was whether the evidence was relevant.  The court held that the evidence of the previous shady dealings was relevant because it gave the state of things under which the bribe was given.   It explained the state of things in which the transaction occurred. The transaction which is the fact in issue.


R V Premji Kurji R.V. (1940) 7 E.A.C.A. 40

The case shows that the accused had opportunity to commit the murder.
This case discusses Res Gestae.   The deceased had been killed with a dagger, and evidence was admitted at the trial of the fact that just prior to the death of the deceased the accused had assaulted the deceased’s brother with a dagger and had uttered threats against the deceased.  It was held that the accused had an opportunity, he had used the dagger only a few minutes before he used it to commit the murder. 

Section 8
8.            Any fact is relevant which shows or constitutes a motive or preparation for any fact in issue or relevant fact.”

Facts which relate to motive, preparation or conduct of any fact in issue will be relevant.  

Motive is that which makes a person do a particular thing or act in a particular way.  For instance a person who is accused of rape may be motivated by lust or desire.  A person who says they killed in self defence will be motivated by fear. Motive is what influences a person’s acts or conduct. For all voluntary acts, there will be a motivation and you need to look at a person’s conduct to explain away the motivation.  Similarly any fact that would constitute preparation for a fact in issue is also going to be admissible.  The planning or arranging means and measures necessary to commit an act or to do something.  If it is a crime, it will be the type of measures one takes to help achieve the committing of that that crime.  For example if you intend to steal there will be surveillance involved.   Hiring implements required to commit the crime.

Similarly any fact which shows the conduct of any party to the proceedings is relevant.

Section 8 (4)

8. (4)   The word “conduct” in this section does not include statements, unless those statements accompany and explain acts other than statements.”

Statements are expressly excluded.  You are not talking about statements but preparation.  Under section 8 you are dealing with things that people do and not things that people do.  If you want to bring in a statement, it would have to be associated with an act.

Section 9
9.            Facts necessary to explain or introduce a fact in issue or relevant fact, or which support or rebut an inference suggested by such a fact, or which establish the identity of any thing or person whose identity is relevant, or fix the time or place at which any fact in issue or relevant fact happened, or which show the relation of parties by whom any such fact was transacted, are relevant insofar as they are necessary for that purpose.”

Facts, which explain or introduce facts in issue, are relevant.

It is only phraseology of Section 9 that differs from factors that have been explained in Section 6,7 and 8.

10.         Where there is reasonable ground to believe that two or more persons have conspired together to commit an offence or an actionable wrong, anything said, done or written by any one of such persons in reference to their common intention, after the time when such intention was first entertained by any one of them, is a relevant fact as against each of the persons believed to be so conspiring, as well for the purpose of proving the existence of the conspiracy as for the purpose of showing that any such person was a party to it.”

The legislator is said to have been acting Ex Abundante Cautella.  Out of an abundance of caution.  This section deals with conspiracies.  If there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is a conspiracy, then whatever is said or done by any person in reference to their common intention, after the time such intention was formed, is a relevant fact. 

What does a conspiracy entail?  It is where people sit and agree and form a common intention to do something.  Common intention is the defining factor of the conspiracy.

It is relevant to prove
  1. That it is a conspiracy; and 
  2. To prove that persons were parties to the conspiracy. 


R V. KANJI 1949 VOL 15 EALR 116

It is stated with reference to S. 10 that a person who joins a conspiracy in law is responsible in law for all the acts of his fellow conspirators done in furtherance of the conspiracy whether done before during or after his participation.  It is only after common intention is established.


Here the court said that “A person who joins a conspiracy is responsible in law for all the acts of his fellow-conspirators done in furtherance of the conspiracy, whether done before, during or after his participation.”

The time when, by act or declaration, reference is made to the common intention is not important so long as it is after that time when the intention is first entertained by one of the conspirators.


The defendants were charged with a conspiracy to effect a lawful purpose by unlawful means, in that they toured the neighbourhood in a lorry to recruit labour for the Company’s Sugar Works, and that acting together they did on a number of occasions compel persons by the use of force and threats of force to get into the lorry and submit to being carried away on it for labour at the Sugar Works.

The defence argued that intimidating labour into employment was not an offence known to the criminal law of Uganda, and did not, therefore, constitute “unlawful means”.  The Court noted, however, citing from ARCHBOLD, that a tort which is not a criminal offence is sufficient to satisfy the provision as to “unlawful means”, and upheld the convictions.

Section 11 - Facts which are inconsistent with or which affect the probability of other facts.
11.         Facts not otherwise relevant are relevant—
(a)          if they are inconsistent with any fact in issue or relevant fact; or
(b)          if by themselves or in connexion with other facts they make the existence or non-existence of any fact in issue or relevant fact highly probable or improbable.

What kind of facts are relevant   S. 11 (b) is the epitome of all that is found relevant in a fact in issue.  Read S. 5 along with S. 11.

Section 12
12.         In suits in which damages are claimed, any fact which will enable the court to determine the amount of damages which ought to be awarded is relevant.”

Section 12 – Deals with the facts which affect the quantum of damages.
This Section is said to be a boon to ambulance chasers. E.g. contributory negligence your participation affects the amount of damages you receive.

If the plaintiff in a civil suit claims damages as compensation for injuries suffered, the amount of damages which will compensate him naturally becomes a fact in issue.  Evidence which helps the court to determine the amount of damages is relevant.  The following cases show various types of facts which the courts have considered in reaching an assessment.

M’IBUI V. DYER [1967] E.A. 315 (K)

“Wounding in course of arrest by private person on suspicion of felony.  Psychological factors of malingering and “compensationists” taken into account, as well as aggravation of damages by element of injury to reputation.”

MU WANI [1964] E.A. 171 (U)WANGA V. JI

“The deceased was an African child and the court considered the amount of damages for the loss of service to the mother and grandparents, the father being deceased.”

Section 13.

13.         Where the existence of any right or custom is in question, the following facts are relevant—
(a)          any transaction by which the right or custom in question was created, claimed, modified, recognised, asserted or denied, or which was inconsistent with its existence; or
(b)          particular instances, in which the right or custom was claimed, recognized or exercised, or in which its exercise was disputed, asserted or departed from.

If what you have in issue is your right in custom, 13 (a) factors that show when customs were created, whether it is relevant and what kinds of arguments were made for the custom.  (Locus classicus)

Relevance and admissibility


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