By Avril Eyewu-Edero
Modern day policing in many parts of the world have recorded many successes in investigation of cases and even cold cases due to the application of what we refer to as the cool science, Forensics. From the investigation of homicide, rape, mass disasters, accidents, fire to civil disputes, forensic as continued to help investigators and the court have a headway with cases.
The question is, why is a country like Nigeria with our high level of crimes still not embracing this approach?
Forensic science is simply defined as the application of scientific analysis of crime evidence in legal investigations. Forensic covers a huge variety of investigative areas making it key in the daily routine of an investigator, as it helps direct a crime investigation in the right path and provides substantial proof of a suspect’s guilt or innocence in an incident.
In a sexual assault case for example, how can you conclusively identify the perpetrator of the crime to corroborate the victim’s statement without a DNA or other forensic evidence from the suspect or crime scene. This already gives the defense counsel enough room to counter the victim’s claims due to lack of
substantial evidence, potentially leading to a perpetrator of such crime walking away, committing even more dangerous crimes and no justice served.
But with the application of forensic science and awareness, a victim of a sexual assault can present for evidence collection in which DNA evidence and other evidence that could be linked to the perpetrator would be collected and analyzed in a forensic laboratory for comparison. This alone can help build a strong case, making the work of the investigator easier.
Forensic science is applied to an investigation process to link a crime scene evidence to a likely suspect and involves processes that should be handled professionally to ensure the evidence maintains its integrity for prosecution.
Forensic investigation starts from the crime scene and ends in the court. The critical aspects are ensuring the right crime scene process is maintained and the evidence are collected and stored appropriately for analysis. Most importantly, this process should be handled only by people that are trained and certified to do so.
In a homicide case, biological samples such as blood, saliva, body tissues deposited at a crime scene or on the victim by a perpetrator could be compared to the samples collected from the perpetrator, creating a strong evidence to support the prosecution process.
Bullets from the crime scene could be compared to that from a weapon found with a suspect, footprints can be compared, weapon marks can be compared, the possibilities are vast, only if forensic science is applied.
Apart from determining the guilty party, forensic science can also help clear an innocent person accused of committing a crime, which is a problem we see with many scenarios in Nigeria. There reports of people in prison for crimes such as murder with no substantial evidence linking them to the crime, so they are just sitting in the prison waiting for a miracle. If forensic science was applied, their guilt or innocence would have been easier to determine.
Using procedures such as fingerprint and DNA analysis which are accurate and unique methods of individual identification can really change how cases are prosecuted in the Nigerian criminal justice system.
A forensic investigator is trained to explore investigations beyond the routine procedures. For a normal investigator, seeing a fiber in a crime scene can be overlooked, but for a forensic investigator, they understand that the fiber could be analyzed to determine the unique properties which could be compared to fibers collected from a suspect to prove that there was an interaction with the crime scene.
In these times when crime is evolving and criminals are become more sophisticated in their methods of operation, it is important that policing evolves and starting thinking about scientific approach to investigation to improve the integrity of the Nigerian criminal justice system.