x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Evidence ‘outweighs procedural errors’, court says

Supreme Court ruling holds that mistakes made by police are less important than other facts in the case.

ABU DHABI // A Supreme Court judge has upheld the conviction of a drug offender, dismissing a procedural error in the arrest that might otherwise have resulted in the case being thrown out. The ruling, issued last week, determined that procedural mistakes should not outweigh other evidence of guilt.

The case centred on the conviction of a drug offender, who was arrested based on a warrant naming the suspect by his previous name, an error that might typically have resulted in an acquittal.

Justice Falah al Hajeri said evidence against the man, Mahmoud al Jaberi, from Oman, was sufficient for the conviction to be upheld.

The man was caught with hashish in his pocket on March 28, 2009 in Fujairah, after he tried to sell the drug to an undercover police officer for Dh3,000. He had previously sold drugs to the same officer on March 3, 2009 for Dh500. He also confessed to police after his arrest that he had more drugs in his car.

He had been sentenced in 2003 to 10 years in prison for drug offences. After his release on a presidential pardon, he changed his name and continued his illicit business.

The judge ruled that the error was minor compared to the other facts, and should be set aside “as long as the person is the one meant by the police”.

In a separate Supreme Court ruling, judges said that mandatory drug tests of convicted drug offenders after their release are not sanctioned by law, but that the results of the test are admissible in the case of an arrest, as long as there was evidence that the sample collected belonged to the defendant.

Humaid Obaid al Ketbi, a prosecutor from Dubai who investigates drugs cases, said many offenders charged in drug cases were acquitted later because the police did not follow the correct procedures. He called on police to train their officers properly.

The Abu Dhabi-based lawyer Faiza Moussa, who specialises in drug cases, said she had conducted a number of presentations to police officers at the Police College on the subject. “A police officer complained that courts often acquitted guilty offenders because of a small error the police committed before or after they arrested the person,” she said.

Khaled Mustafa, a lawyer who represented drug defendants, said courts discounted such errors only in drug cases as part of a general policy to stamp out drug abuse.

“They are tough on drug abuse because it poses a national threat,” Mr Mustafa said. He noted that judicial officials realise that some police may not be properly trained in procedures and could make mistakes in the process. “Judges usually look for evidence regardless of the procedures.”