Police give new meaning to DNA


Dirty Nasty Action – that’s what our police take DNA to be.

If the huge public outcry over the brutal rape and murder of little Seya Sadewmi, calling for the arrest and punishment of the person or persons involved has moved to the background, there is a need for another outcry – this time against the police, and a strong protest at that.

It is a demand for justice for the 17-year-old boy and the 33- year-old father of one, made the focus of public hatred and calls for revenge, due to the completely wrong and contemptible action of the police, determined to get three cheers and more from the mob, and not to carry out justice.

What the police said about holding these two so-called suspects in custody was a plain and simple farce. It was an unreal position that clearly caused so much tragedy to the two families involved, especially that of the young boy who still attends school.

What the police told the court, and later announced to the public, through a senior officer, in addition to the Police Spokesman, was that the two ‘suspects’ – especially the young boy, had to be kept in custody to obtain their DNA samples, to proceed with the investigation. This is where one sees the unmitigated farce. If it is to be believed, it shows the total ignorance of our police about the use of DNA in crime investigations.

In the huge public call that prevailed for quick and decisive action against the rapist-killer, the massive sympathy for what happened to little Seya Sudewmi, and the need to bring a halt to this wave of horrible crimes, it seems that even the court did not think it necessary to ask the police why persons should be kept in custody to obtain DNA samples. As it happens so often, the court did believe the police, who are responsible for the investigation.

Although not as light as I would like it to be, it seems necessary to use this column to teach the police, and sections of the public too, about the collection of DNA samples for criminal investigations. As today’s scientific knowledge shows, the most desirable method is a ‘buccal swab’ obtained from the inner cheek or within the mouth or throat of a person. In some instances this may need a court order. But DNA samples can also be collected from blood, saliva, semen, and even the toothbrush or razor of a person.

This has been done before in our country, and continues to be done in all other countries where DNA is part of criminal investigations. It is truly shocking if our police did not know this simple fact, as they attempted to mislead the court by stating that the suspects were being held to get DNA samples. There is no need for experts in Criminology or Forensic Science to be in every police station to give this, now common knowledge to police investigators.

All the police needed to do is obtain the samples from any necessary body fluid, and if they were real suspects in any manner, which certainly does not seem the case, instruct them to stay within their homes, until further notice. There was clearly no need to have them in police or remand custody If the parents of the young boy was told these facts and asked to keep him safely at home, they would surely have followed instructions. One sees no difference regarding the 33 year old father of one, too.

What the police have shown by their unwarranted and truly disgusting action is that what they were looking for was publicity, about being quick and tough action takers to fight crime, and escape from the need to take real action to find the actual criminal involved. It so happened that later, they were led to another suspect, with a bad police record – which should have made the police book him for questioning earlier– who is now said to have confessed to the crime.

This may be true, and the details of the crime have to be established in court. Yet, it is necessary here to remember the word, ‘confessed’.

We are not ignorant about how the police obtain ‘confessions’ from many suspects or arrested persons, that later fail to pass the tests of proof in the courts. Much worse, we are also not unaware of several cases, in recent years, where persons who allegedly ‘confessed"’ to serious crimes, were killed by the police, when they happened to take the suspect to the scene of the crime to show where the crime weapon was hid, and he tried to escape a whole posse of armed policemen.

There is more that the police should never have done in this case. Whatever the interest and demand of the media may have been, it was wholly wrong to reveal the name and other details of the identity of a person, who may be a suspect, but against whom no charges have been framed, or the process of framing charges had not begun.

This huge contempt for the privacy of an alleged suspect person has certainly impacted very badly on the 17-year-old student; and will certainly have a bad impact on the adult too. It is more than funny to read a statement from the police that the young boy will get over the problems or embarrassment with the passage of time. The question is what right the police had to put that boy and man into such a position of embarrassment and even possible harm, by disclosing their identities, when they did not have even a shred of evidence against them, for their arrest and detention.

Even though late, it is important that the Magistrate in ordering the release of these two ‘suspects’, as there was no evidence, observed that there was an inconsistency when the police and the CID requested the Court to order their arrest and later for their release.

With due respect to the Courts, this shows it would be good for magistrates to do a little more probing when the police or CID make such summary demands for the detention of alleged suspects.

Far from the cheers of the mob, what the police deserve on this huge travesty of justice, what appears to be a serious violation of the human rights of these two suspects, is to bow down in shame, if the police can ever be shameful, and also do a little more study about the use of DNA in tracking down crime.

What they have done in this instance is to give a whole new meaning to the initials DNA, which is part of common parlance on matters related to crime.

With this act or contempt for decency, the police have made the initials DNA that stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, to stand instead for - Dirty Nasty Action or Disgusting Noxious Action. The police remain free to pick its choice of the two.

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