Well done, CP!
Every week churns out an outrageous crime that hits the headlines. One gets the feeling that society in Mauritius is sick and that danger stalks our streets as never before. But believe it or not crime is on the decrease. In fact for the year 2009, it is noted for the first time, that the crime statistics have gone down from 49,111 in 2008 to 44,914, representing a decrease of 8.5 percent. The overall crime rate has declined from 5.4 percent in 2007 to 4.9 percent this year.With regard to drug cases, it is important to highlight the fact that there has been a steady increase in the number of persons arrested in connection with the importation and use of Subutex particularly since 2005. Whereas during the period 2000 to 2004, 184 persons were arrested, through the increased vigilance and effectiveness of the Police, we have witnessed a substantial increase in the number of persons arrested. In fact during the period 2005 to 2009, 3649 persons were arrested. The detection rate has increased thanks to the vigilance of the Police — not the other way round.
However, the number of heroin related-cases has dramatically dropped over the same period. In 2000, there were some 416 cases, in 2001 it went up to 761, in 2002 it increased to 779, in 2003 it went up again to 952, in 2004 it was 851, in 2005 there were 861 cases, in 2006 it dropped to 400 and for last year (2009) it further dropped to 209. The quantity of heroin seized by the Police has shown a decrease from 24 kg 530 g in 2001 to 9 kg 557 g in 2009.
But as the Prime Minister pointed out in his address to the police when launching the National Policing Strategic Framework (NPSF), the time is not for complacency. The Commissioner of Police has seen right in preparing the first ever national policing strategic framework document in the history of the police force. It is a well documented strategy to transform the police from a “Force” to a “Service”. It connotes a change in the way of doing things and a change in the mindset and culture of the Police Department.
It is crucially important that, in our society, the police adopt the best possible strategies and policing styles. Like all organisations, the Police have to adopt new strategies for efficient and effective service delivery to the community. The change will bring about a new mindset and a new culture. The police should also be told that it is possible to abide by human rights norms and detect crime. They have been given all modern equipment and facilities and should therefore be able to match criminals at all levels of the playing field.
And once again, it is worth highlighting what the Prime Minister stated in his address. The police should move away from a confession-based approach and rely on forensic and medical evidence to prove cases in courts. Too many cases are being dismissed in court simply because the confessions turned out not to be reliable. In an adversarial system of law which is based on a standard of proof which is beyond reasonable doubt there is no room for error. The evidence must stand the test of cross examination. Experts must be able to substantiate their findings.
The NPSF has given a new and wider vision to modern policing. The Commissioner of Police rightly points out that policing has a triangular engagement involving the police themselves, commitment of all authorities and an active involvement of the community. It is high time that we realise that there are two parties involved in a crime, the criminal and the victim. We tend too often to forget the trauma of the victim. Having been traumatised as a victim, the person needs the reassurance that something is being done to repair the injustice. He is ignored most of the time because the emphasis of the inquiry is to look for the criminal. And in the process, lost in the meanders of a slow justice system, the victim loses faith in the police, in the court system and in the authorities. Yet, he is the most crucial piece of evidence that will be required to establish a case against the criminal.
The police in Mauritius, at times, still suffers from the bully syndrome practised by a few former members of the Force. A lot of noise is made in the press much to the delight of the latter but when the time comes to prosecute the case before the courts, it is found that at every stage of the enquiry the investigators did not follow the rules. It is a nightmare to every prosecutor when a criminal is allowed to walk free from the court simply on the grounds of procedural impropriety.
The Courts also have their share of responsibility. Too many cases are being dismissed simply because the guarantees afforded to an accused party to have a fair hearing within a reasonable time under section 10 of the Constitution is not being respected. It is only when a conviction has been secured before a court of law that the fight against crime would have materialised. Finally, the Press should look at the statistics. By reporting on the grotesque exceptions they create a factually erroneous impression.