x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Forensics officers to train judges

Creating better understanding between the police and the judiciary is a crucial part of getting more convictions, officials say.

ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Police forensic section will train judges to help them better understand technical evidence in the courtroom, police said yesterday.

"We have new updated procedures and we expanded our lab and services, and [judges] need to be aware of that so they can solve the case in a correct way," said Lt Col Nawal al Katheeri, the manager of the forensic chemistry branch.

Dr al Katheeri said in the coming weeks, police and legal officials would discuss the challenges they faced, then set up a plan for the training programmes.

Dr Ann Priston, the president of the Forensic Science Society in the UK, said a lack of understanding of forensic work and crime scene investigation was a universal problem. "You can't teach judges and lawyers how forensics work, or forensic officials how judges and lawyers work. All we can do is create awareness and teach each other our strengths and weaknesses," she said.

Anwar Siddiqi, a forensic expert with Abu Dhabi Police, said exchange training between forensic and legal officials was needed.

"The relationship between forensics and the jury is very close; we can't work without each other, but we don't know anything about one another," Mr Siddiqi said.

"The idea is that we as forensic scientists are asked by jury and prosecutors to speak in simple language, because they are not forensic experts so they cannot understand our technical terms."

He said that, for instance, scientists could repeat the information a couple of times to simplify it. He suggested that legal courses should also be given to forensic and CSI officials. "I would also like to know the legal steps - what will happen as a result of my findings."

Mr Siddiqi said he usually asked the lawyers with whom he worked about the legal process, and they provided him with the information he needed.

A criminal court judge recently asked a forensic expert – called to testify whether a defendant had taken drugs when he was outside the country, or after he arrived – to document his analysis so judges could refer to his expertise in similar cases.

“Could you please write everything you told us today on a piece of paper so you do not have to come every time we have such a case?” Chief Justice Saeed Abdul Baseer asked the expert.

The Abu Dhabi forensic lab is also looking into going international by 2030, providing services to other countries if needed.

“This is a long-term goal. We haven’t started working on it yet,” Dr al Katheeri said.

“It’ll be like the FBI [in the US]: their services are used across the world.”

She said the department was focused now on getting international accreditation by next year and becoming a full forensic service by 2014, including such systems as databases for DNA and ballistics identification.

The discussion came on the last day of the CSI conference, held by Abu Dhabi Police and the Forensics Science Society.

* With additional reporting by Hassan Hassan