Beefing up forensics

In a much needed development, the Prime Minister has asked the police to submit a proposal for a forensics laboratory to the Cabinet immediately.

The Prime Minister has assured the police that either donor or internal funds will be allocated if it is found that a forensics lab is needed.

Several agencies have been calling for the establishment of a fully-fledged forensics lab for many years. The lab would be a part of a one-stop crisis centre, that would also provide medical services and treatment.

It is time for Bhutan to invest in such a facility even if there might be concerns about the cost effectiveness of having one. Bhutan is rapidly developing and unfortunately, we’re also seeing an increase in some crimes.

The police have been depending on interrogations, tracing call records, witness accounts and other forms of traditional investigation methods to solve cases. The lack of a forensics lab has been hindering their investigations. It is time the police can also rely on scientific methods to investigate cases.

Most recently, investigating the death of a radio jockey was hampered because of a lack of examination tools. While a suspect was eventually caught and a confession obtained, having forensics evidence would allow both the police, the justice system, victims, and the public to rest assured that two methods identify the culprit of the crime.

While forensics science is available to the police, data collected from crime scenes have to be referred to India or third countries, which is expensive, time consuming, and delays the delivery of justice.

For instance, police are still waiting for forensics evidence for the cold-blooded double murder of an elderly woman and a teenager that occurred in Trongsa in August last year. While the suspect has already confessed, without eye-witnesses, there can always be some element of doubt. Having scientific evidence to establish a link would remove such doubt to a certain degree.

According to past reports, police refer around 30 cases to determine deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), fingerprints, document analysis, toxilogy cases and a few ballistic cases. More than a million ngultrums have to be spent for these referrals annually.

With the possibility of crime increasing as the population expands, the expenditure could increase which only makes it more logical to spend now to reduce costs later.

But there is another more important element than money involved.

With crime labs facing their own backlogs in India and other countries, suspects and victims have to wait for months for verdicts to be delivered. We cannot compromise on justice.

The police already have trained forensics personnel. What they lack is the equipment. If the investment is made, results could be obtained in a few days or weeks, instead of months.

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