Editorial - Weak evidence - Monday, March 14, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=36075&Cat=8

Once again, a court has questioned why it is that they are being obliged to give bail to terrorist suspects because the cases brought to them by the police are so evidentially weak. The Peshawar High Court has asked the government to set up an enquiry into this obvious and national problem – it is not limited to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The call for an enquiry was prompted by the police and the prosecution failing to produce solid evidence when two suspects were arraigned charged with acts of terrorism. It was also noted by the judiciary that the court could only decide cases on the basis of the records before it presented by the Prosecution Department and the police. If those records were found to be in any way deficient – and they often are – then the accused may apply for bail and stand a good chance of getting it because the courts have to be seen to be acting within the law even if nobody else does.

Arising from these observations come a number of questions, all of which go to the heart of the practices of our police and prosecution services. It is obvious that not all cases brought to court are flawed – because if they were then nobody would be convicted and that is not the case. There are thousands of convictions, and in those cases the judiciary found no substantive deficiency in the evidence or the basis for the prosecution and a convictions were secured. If it is possible for the police and prosecution services to successfully bring to book any number of criminals, why do they find it so difficult to do the same with cases where terrorism is the issue? In part, the matter may turn on who ‘owns’ the case being brought. The police may only be the front-of-house operation for a ‘sensitive’ agency, and that agency may not be willing to have either its members or its officers tested by the courts evidentially – which leaves the police and the Prosecution Service in the unenviable position of bringing a case they know from the outset they cannot win. Alternatively, there may be those within the police and prosecution service who harbour sympathies for those they are putting in the dock, and therefore tailor the evidence into a weak garment that can be torn to pieces by a defence lawyer who then sees his client bailed. A third possibility is that the police simply lack the forensic skills that would enable them to make a case stronger, and that may be because they do not have the training or equipment that would allow them to function more effectively. Whatever the reason, it is evident that evidence, its collection, recording and presentation need to improve if terrorists are not to walk free; and the judiciary has every right to demand an enquiry.

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