A CASE FOR PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS IN THE NIGERIA CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
1.1 Background of Study
The term “Investigation” encompasses a wide range of disciplines, and each discipline with its own different practices. These disciplines present wide variability in regard to techniques and methodologies. Some of the disciplines are laboratory based (drug analysis, and toxicology), while other disciplines are based on interpretation of observed patterns by the experts (fingermarks, writings, tool marks). Some of the activities requires the expertise of people trained as scientists in analyzing them (chemists or biologists); also there other activities are conducted by both people trained in law enforcement and scientists (blood spatter experts, crime scene investigators, crime reconstruction experts), medicine (pathologists), or laboratory methodologies by lab technologists. Empirical application of science is the main process that forensic scientists use. The main aim of Investigation Science is to gather intelligence and enable the judge in making decisions in court by means of a scientific approach through evaluation of evidence (Cardinetti and Cammarota, 2005:80).
Crime scene investigation is traced as far as 1750. It is in that year that Henry Fielding created a small group of volunteers in London, referred as the “Bow Street Runners”. These volunteers hurried to scenes of reported crimes and began investigations, thus becoming the first modern crime scene detectives (Swanson et al., 2003:4). Crime scene investigation, as it is known today, dates back to the 17th century in China, where a Chinese team of investigators evaluated crime scenes, examined physical evidence and interviewed witnesses and suspects (Owen, 2000:13).
However, it was only during the 1970s that crime scene investigation gained popularity. In the 1970s many court decisions severely constrained investigators in their use of traditional interrogation techniques, and both scientists and investigators had to search for alternative sources to provide them with information. During these new developments investigators realised that the crime scene contains a tremendous amount of information. As a result, investigations today rely greatly on crime scene experts to gather clues and evidence to prove the crime and the suspect‟s involvement (Lee et al., 2001:20).
The primary obligation of the state is to protect the public from criminality. Thus, it is obligatory for policy makers and policy practitioners in protection of public to ensure the integrity, reliability and effectiveness, of concrete evidence and also enhance public confidence in investigation. Human right requires that this responsibility be discharged with due esteem and reverence for major ethical values. In essence, as society becomes less homogeneous and more risk adverse, forensic practitioners are required to combine ethical sensitivity with scientific rigour (Burrows et al., 2005:5).
The role of a private investigation expert is to testify in court using (if possible) a quantitative measure that evaluates the strength of the evidence. The judge and/or the jury use the testimony as an aid to the deliberations and decisions. Therefore, a private investigation expert testifying in court is a witness who presents factual information and offers a professional opinion based upon that factual information; he or she is not an advocate. To be effective, the testimony should be carefully documented and expressed with precision in a neutral and objective manner. Technical concepts should be developed using specific recommendations that take into account the forensic, criminal, legal, and judicial perspectives. Such technical concepts should be articulated in nonprofessional terms such that the judge and the attorneys may understand (Taroni et al., 2004).
All over the world, there are cases of unsolved crime. According to the Associated Press (2011), the Brazilian state has accumulated more than 60,000 unsolved murders in the past decade. The department investigated the matter for the Federal Ministry of Justice as part of a national plan to improve public safety. The survey showed that 24,000 of the victims had not even been identified. In the United States and in European countries the rates are reportedly around 70 to 80 per cent. This seemingly embarrassing criminal justice conundrum continues to haunt all nations of the world and for the developing nations, these challenges are quite daunting.
Evidence from the United Kingdom clearly shows that more investigation evidence collected at crime scenes results in increased identification of suspects. This has the well-understood multiplier effect that forensic evidence may link several offences through an intelligence-led approach.
However, this can only work where the police and the private investigator provider work in partnership (Ribaux et al., 2009).
In Nigeria experts have linked many cases of unsolved crimes that dot the Nigeria criminal justice system to absence of private investigation evidence. This gap has rendered justice quite ineffective (Oladele, 2006 cited in Ngboawaji, 2012). Nigeria has degenerated to a level where life is seemingly worthless and where serious crimes such as murder continue to remain unsolved by the criminal justice system. The Nigerian police force is charged with the responsibility of maintaining law and order. But, unfortunately, the effort of the police in curbing crime and protecting lives and property has been quite inadequate thereby attenuating the confidence of the public in the police. This aggravated mistrust between the police and members of the Nigerian public adds to the mystery of unsolved murders (Oladele, 2001 cited in Ngboawaji, 2012). The result is a serious dent on the private investigative ability of the Nigerian police and other such security agencies. The identification of murder suspects is a critical element in private investigation. Onashile argues that police records not based on strong forensic evidence are largely useless as many criminals will escape detection because names and faces change every day (Onashile, 2009).
According to Dr Olumbe,(2010), the main problem in death-related investigation is that there is no specifically appointed coroner and there is heavy reliance by the judicial system on the police to conduct the death investigations. He points out that dishonesty among the police officers and inadequate pre-colonial investigation by them has culminated in magistrates not having complete control of the investigations. This has led to long delays before investigations are complete and the heavy police workload naturally means little priority is given to criminal or suspicious deaths. Though these cases represent the minority of those reported, police may well not have the time, staff or resources to fully investigate natural or accidental deaths. Also, no set procedures have been established for the investigation. If an investigation is inadequate, then it is difficult for meaningful recommendations to be made at an inquest that may ensue (Olumbe, 2000). Olumbe concludes by saying that private investigation services are therefore usually put last on the agenda until there is a crisis involving a case with political connotations.
1.2Statement of the Problem
For decades, private investigation have produced valuable evidence that has contributed to the successful prosecution and conviction of criminals as well as to the exoneration of innocent people. Advances in some investigation disciplines like have demonstrated that some areas of Investigation Science have great additional potential to help law enforcement identify criminals. Those advances, however, also have revealed that, in some cases, substantive information and testimony based on faulty private investigation analyses may have contributed to wrongful convictions of innocent people. This fact has demonstrated the potential danger of giving undue weight to evidence and testimony derived from imperfect testing and analysis. It would be hard to imagine of any significant criminal investigation today without the contribution of private investigation. However, this does not mean that private investigation is used effectively in the broader justice system. The recently retired Chief Justice Willie Mutunga of Kenya once criticized private investigation work for delaying the justice process. This suggests that there are a lot of things which are not in place for private investigation to attain their maximum potential in helping solve crimes in Nigeria. This raises the concern of whether Investigation Science is effective and/or efficient in support of criminal investigation in Nigeria. The gathering of evidence begins at the crime scene, for it contains visible and hidden information and the investigator should take great care to collect all evidence (Bryd, 2004; Ogle et al., 2004). Each piece of evidence should be identified, collected and preserved as a separate entity (Van Niekrek, 2000; Fisher, 2004). If an investigator at the crime scene is unable to detect clues, interpret them correctly, place their relative association on record, submit them to the appropriate expert and handle them in such a manner as to maximize the examination results, a situation can arise where months of hard work do not bring about the desired results (Adams et al., 2004).
Therefore, this study explored the state of private investigation in Nigeria by seeking answers to the following questions:
- How is forensic investigation done in Nigeria Criminal Justice System?
- What is the level of training and expertise for private investigators in the Nigeria?
- How are ethics and human rights observed in private investigations in the Nigeria?
- What challenges are faced by private investigators in the country?
1.3 Objectives of the study
1.3.1 General objective
To explore the state of forensic investigations in Nigeria.
- To describe the process of private investigations in Nigeria Criminal Justice System.
- To establish the level of training and expertise of private investigators in the country.
- To determine the system(s) in place for observing human rights and code of ethics in private investigations in the country.
- To identify the challenges faced by private investigators in the country.
1.4Assumptions of the study
- Private investigations in Nigeria are conducted according to established procedures.
- There is a minimum training for one to be competent in conducting private investigations in Nigeria.
- Private investigations in Nigeria are conducted according to rules and regulations which adhere to accepted human rights considerations.
- Private investigators in Nigeria are faced by some challenges.
1.5Justification of the study
There should be a reason for doing research; if not, it would be pointless spending money and time undertaking the investigation. The main purpose behind a research is the desire to solve a practical problem or to improve on a procedure. There could be different possible purposes for doing research (Denscombe, 2002:26; Welman and Kruger, 2001:19).
The research site was selected for it has the largest number of scenes of crime officers. Other counties have few officers per county. This implies that it is the place where the information could be obtained conveniently and more so it has the Departmental headquarters and most of the equipment is sourced from this county. In Nigeria, there has been a series of accusations from international bodies and human rights activists that private investigations are not thorough. This might imply that the justice system sets free many people who ought to be convicted and unfairly convicts those who ought to be free due to lack of sufficient or reliable evidence. The findings of this study are likely to inform the government on how private investigation is at the time of study and inform the relevant bodies on the possible actions to take. Few academic studies have been undertaken and published in the field of private investigation in Nigeria Criminal Justice System; the study therefore offers some background against which scholars interested in private investigation can use to further their interests. The study should also inform researchers, especially forensic anthropologists, forensic archaeologists, forensic pathologists and forensic toxicologists, on the gaps in the Nigeria system of forensic investigation and their role in the discourse of human rights and ethics.
1.6Scope and limitations of the study
The study was limited to the role of private investigators in solving crimes in Nigeria Criminal Justice System. It focused on the ability of Nigeria private investigators to efficiently deliver credible justifiable outcomes. The study did not delve into other forensic issues other than crime. It explored the state of private investigation in the duty stations and it was guided by actor network theory. This study used both exploratory and descriptive research designs. It sought to describe the process of private investigation, establish the level of training of the experts, and examine systems in place for observing human rights and codes of ethics and the challenges faced by forensic investigators in the country.
1.7 Definition of terms
Definitions concretise the intended meaning of a concept in relation to a particular study (De Beer, 1999:15). The following definitions explain the key concepts of the research:
Field officers – These are professionals who visit the scene of a crime and collect the physical evidence that may be related to the crime. They also document and record the scene by taking photographs and videos.
Lab officers – These are technicians who analyse and complete tests on the evidence collected by the field officers.
Private investigation- A private investigator, a private detective, or inquiry agent, is a person who can be hired by individuals or groups to undertake investigatory law services. Private detectives/investigators often work for attorneys in civil and criminal cases.Wikipedia
Crime scene- This is a locality of hidden clues which can lead to the clarification or detection of the crime. It includes any other locality or place where physical clues concerning the crime can be found (Marais and Van Rooyen, 1990:23).
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