This week on Thursday, a reputable television station in Uganda run a story of a father whose son who had previously been kidnapped for a ransom saw and identified his kidnappers. The father and son reported to the officer in charge holding the alleged kidnapper and physically identified the culprit. This culprit and a partner had been arrested in another kidnap for ransom case involving another minor.
The officer in charge, we assume in a frantic mood, used the minor twice, to identify his alleged kidnappers in a face-to-face physical confrontation. The boy successfully, pointed out the criminal and perhaps, with his help, the culprit will be punished.
However, we, at The Deuteronomy, will not tire of requesting relevant authorities to kindly employ all necessary mechanisms to protect the identities of minors in criminal cases. We believe that it is every adult’s responsibility to keep children from danger and all effects of the same. We also acknowledge that it is equally every adult’s responsibility to counsel and educate children about our systems so as to create awareness using their kind of language.
That is why we briefly remind you, our reader, of identification parades in our jurisdiction and their equally governing procedural rules, especially in cases involving minors!
What is an identification parade?
An identification parade is a line-up of people arranged by officer in charge for a witness to identify a suspect of a crime.
It is possible for a witness to feel pressured and pick out any person. But it is not mandatory that for every line up, there is the criminal.
Often, officer in charge will have other physical items like photos, mug shots or videos of people from which the suspect may or may not appear. The witness can choose from these items or tell the officer in charge that the person they observed was not in the lineup given.
Procedure of an identification parade
- The lineup consists of persons with similar traits a witness will have reported and sometimes, the suspect is among them.
- The persons on the lineup will stand or mimic anything that witness will have reported to officer in charge to enable the witness identify a suspect. However, the officer in charge or person conducting the identification parade cannot do anything derogatory or immoral or against the person on the lineup. The person may refuse to do so.
- The officer in charge may ask suspects or persons on the lineup some questions. However, they cannot coerce them to speak if they request for a lawyer to be present.
- Any information a witness or person on the lineup says may be used in the trial. Record whatever the witness or person on the lineup says or does. This is to be used at the trial as evidence or testimony.
- Minors must have a guardian or lawyer present. This point is critical for the protection of the minor and the minor’s psychological state of mind before, during and after the identification process. Children digest information differently. In the presence of a responsible adult, they gain a sense of protection. Imagine having them confront their offenders face to face! On this note, we really need psychologists and psychiatrists specialised in child welfare to help security organisations and other authorities involved in child welfare to provide a favourable environment for children involved in juvenile crime or crimes involving minors.
- Last but not least, the witness must have clearly without any impairment, observed the crime or person committing the crime. The High Court of Uganda case of *Sentale versus Uganda (1968) EA, 365 set up the procedure for identification parades. Court in that case dictated that; the person conducting the parade must inform the suspect and other persons on the line-up the purpose for the identification parade; a different officer independent from the trial or investigation may carry out the identification parade to avoid any form of bias; the witness must have seen the suspect during the commission of the crime and not before the line-up is set up; witnesses are not allowed to consult each other; as much as possible, exclude every person not needed on the parade, etc.
We acknowledge that our system is flawed and has been for some time. However, we request that relevant authorities respect the identity of minors, especially those who are victims of criminal offences. In our system, any mistake by the prosecution or error in evidence or how it is gathered against the accused will be used in favour of the accused. The law sets a high burden of proof in criminal matters hence the need to observe clearly set principles.
Regarding the protection of minors, a botched trial could be a danger or source of trauma to the minor/victim if the accused attacks the victim afterwards.