KARACHI: Sindh High Court (SHC) has issued guidelines for investigation of sexual offences following hearing of a case related to rape with a three-and-half-year-old girl.
An order of SHC bench headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar stated that main responsibility of the first responder is to preserve and secure the evidence present on the scene so that it can be collected, analyzed and presented before the court while first responder to the information of a sexual offence may not be the investigating officer.
The court will accept it as evidence if it is proved that it is the same evidence that was present on the scene after the incident and integrity of evidence has been preserved and it was secured from being contaminated.
The SHC directed that an investigation officer should make an entry in daily diary of his departure for crime scene and should take briefing from the first responder and evaluate the crime scene boundary, walk through the crime scene and prepare crime scene strategy and conduct photography of the crime scene as well as carry out search of the crime scene.
It stated that search of bodies/clothes of the victim and the suspect (s) is conducted at the first opportunity and evidence/articles seized properly for further analysis. In sexual assault cases, the medical evidence by the medico-legal officer is important for a successful prosecution. Medical examination of the victim and the suspect (s) should be conducted by authorized medico-legal officer according to provisions of Police Rule 22 & 25. Efforts should be made to ensure that the victim or the suspects (if available) do not wash themselves.
Interview of the victim in these cases is a very sensitive issue and requires a bit of specialized training, which is generally not available at every police station, court stated and directed that efforts should be made to procure the services of a trained female interviewer through supervisory officers.
A female victim is not likely to express herself freely before a male police officer especially in presence of strange on looking eyes in a police station. Interview of sex assault victim requires special atmosphere and trained female police officer, it stated.
During the interview, police jargon and unfamiliar terms should be avoided; the voice tone of the interviewer plays a vital role in increasing the victim’s confidence and encouraging communication. If interviewer speaks in loud and authoritative tone then an effective control establishes and the victim may be discouraged.
By moderating, the tone of voice downwards and speaking more softly and slowly, the interviewer speak in more conversational tone that is more likely to encourage the witness to respond and take full part in the interview.
When closing the interview, the victim/witness should be thanked for her contribution. Finally, the victim’s/witness’ account must be properly evaluated to determine what sort of inquiries need to be carried out.
Court maintained that priority should be given to arrest accused if not done earlier. Accused should be interrogated.