x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Police rely on evidence over confessions

Improved police training and better methods improve the justice system, officials say

ABU DHABI // Improved training, better investigative strategies and new technology have changed the way prosecutions are brought to court.

Abu Dhabi Police Maj Salem al Ameri, manager of the violent crimes section of the criminal investigation department (CID), said investigation techniques have matured.

And gathering evidence is something that police do better than before, thanks to training courses and improvement of investigative strategies, officials said.

Last year, CID officers’ work led prosecutors to file charges in 94 per cent of the 147 cases they dealt with. Similarly, in 2009, 96 per cent of the 302 cases they investigated were referred to prosecution for charges.

The decline in total cases flows from better crime prevention, said Maj Jumaa al Kaabi, director of the crimes against persons division of the CID.

In the United States, clearance rates for violent crimes such as homicide range from 60 to 80 per cent, according to government statistics. Lesser crimes such as burglaries tend to be solved in less than 25 per cent of cases.

Adding specialised expertise such as crime scene investigation to the Abu Dhabi Police has also boosted the number of cases solved based on evidence.

CSI has multiplied the amount of evidence police can gather at a crime scene, officials said.

“Before CSI we would get a maximum of three pieces of evidence from the scene, now we can get up to 30,” said Maj Gen al Naimi, the secretary general of the interior minister’s office.

“In the past investigators used to seek confessions in order to get the job done and refer the convict to prosecutors,” Maj al Ameri said.

But now relying on confessions as the main route to the prosecutors’ office is considered “a failure in conducting an investigation,” added Maj Gen al Naimi. Confessions are rarely sought now, he added, and carry less weight.

Nonetheless most of the 147 cases CID dealt with in 2010 did include confessions, said Maj al Kaabi. 

“In most cases, after the accused is faced with all the evidence, he ends up confessing to the charge,” Maj al Kaabi said. “For example, if we found his fingerprints on the knife, he cannot keep denying it.”

Many defendants say in court they were forced into confessing, but Maj al Kaabi said that was simply a tactic to avoid conviction.

“Of course the accused will say that, because it could be his last resort and his lawyer would tell him to do so,” he said. “We do not torture or force them to confess. We focus on gathering evidence. We refer the suspect to prosecutors based on evidence.”