Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Nailing The Rapist(1)

According to the Nigerian Sexual Offenses Law, rape is committed when there is an intentional or unlawful penetration of a person's genital organs:
A. Without that person's consent
B. When consent was obtained by force, threats or intimidation of any kind.
A simple explanation to this is that a rape is said to have occured on a person if he or she was penetrated through his or her sex organ without his or her approval irrespective of the circumstance.

Consequently, by this law, a person found guilty of rape gets the maximum sentence of Life Imprisonment!

The fear of being in prison for life alone should send jitters down an "intending rapist's" spine! Meaning the convicted rapist will be in prison till he or she dies! (Or until an executive pardon by either a governor or president over rules the it). We await the conviction of the pioneer convict under this new law as at the date of writing this post.

One thing that drew my attention (as a forensics inclined person) was the evidence requirement and conditions of its admissibility in court. A portion of the Act (section 36 precisely) states that " the court may direct an appropriate sample or samples be taken from the accused person at such place and subject to such conditions as the court may direct for the purpose of forensic and other scientific testing including a DNA test in order to gather evidence and to ascertain..." the person's guilt or not.

From my point of view (and i stand to be corrected) It will have to take the court to decide whether and when to take decisions for a DNA  and other forensic analyses to be carried out to determine whether the accused is guilty or not! And why should samples be taken from the accused only and not from the victim as well?

It might interest you to know that the DNA sample(most preferably semen) from the accused needed to be compared with DNA sample(say the ejaculated semen) gotten from the victim so as to determine if there will be a match. (The Act went further to state that a DNA databank should store the obtained sample(s) pending the closure of the case at which the sample(s) should be destroyed if the accused is found not guilty. I know that we don't have a DNA database in Nigeria. Allow me to deliberately leave this database issue for the next part of this series.) Back to the aftermath of the crime, a medical personnel or someone trained need to be be able to examine the victim for any evidence that shows rape had occurred.

Most importantly, to effectively achieve conviction of someone accused of rape(a man in this case), the victim need to as quick as possible to either call the police who should immediately make provision for a trained personel to carry out necessary examination or get to the nearest medical center where appropriate examinations should be carried such as vaginal or cervical swabs which if they contain the rapist's semen, can provide the strongest forensic evidence possible to achieve conviction. Then the accused when caught can be made to provide his DNA which would be compared with that gotten from the victim. If both DNA matches, the accused will most certainly end up convicted.

The point is, the court should not be the one to determine when and under what conditions should forensics come into play. Instead, the forensic evidence analysis should begin from the crime scene itself and all stakeholders such as the police, crime scene investigators, forensic experts and others should be mutually involved from start to finish in the whole process. By this, no rapist will commit this heinous crime and think they can go scot free.

The Nigerian Sexual Offense Act 2013 has got great potential for severely punishing sex offenders in meteting out life imprisonment but it will take a lot more to achieve the intended conviction. More justice is needed to be done on the use of forensics to maximize conviction rate. This is post is just a highlight in relation to the law that affects this crime called rape.

As Locard says, "every contact leaves a trace".... It is left to forensics to find that trace and in this case, nail the rapist.