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Police, lawyers clash over calling of suspects

by Staff reporter
06 Mar 2024 at 04:46hrs | Views
IN a world where police enforcement is strict and unwavering, one phenomenon that stands out as peculiar and debatable is whether or not it is right for police officers to phone suspects.
This was recently raised by a local city lawyer Mr Tinashe Tashaya of Sengweni Legal Service during a bail hearing of a multiple fraud suspect, Michael Ndebele.

It was during cross-examination that the lawyer suggested that calling a suspect over the phone was an anomaly, and yet the Zimbabwe Republic Police insists the approach is part of its common procedural tactics.

Police had flagged Ndebele who is facing seven counts of defrauding several grain millers of thousands of dollars in botched deals.

The police insisted that Ndebele was a flight risk, arguing that he was not cooperative while they were carrying out their investigations.

Detective Sergeant Clever Zaranyika who was the investigating officer in the case argued that Ndebele refused to avail himself at the police station when he invited him to the police station over the phone.

"He is most likely to abscond, as we made efforts to contact him to respond to the allegations and charges but he refused to cooperate.

"He is very illusive and truant. He is not cooperative as he refused to come to the police station when I phoned him," argued Det Sgt Zaranyika in court.

However, Mr Tashaya quickly shot down the argument for phoning suspects saying there is no law that allows for police officers to phone suspects to avail themselves.

It was during that case that it dawned on many people that police are required to summon a suspect through the means of a warrant or a subpoena.

In an interview, Mr Tashaya said police are required to follow set standards of carrying out arrests in accordance with the criminal procedure and evidence  act.

"The law requires you to summon or arrest suspects by way of summons. Phoning a suspect is an unconventional and informal way of carrying out their duties," he said.

"There is no legal binding in the event a suspect does not present themselves to a police station if they are phoned by the police," said Mr Tashaya.

He said it is against police protocol for officers to phone suspects directly, as it can compromise the investigation and potentially violate the suspect's rights.

"Police are required to follow proper procedures and protocols when conducting investigations, which may include obtaining a warrant or permission from a magistrate or judge to contact a suspect. Therefore, police are not allowed to phone suspects without proper authorisation," said Mr Tashaya.

He said most police officers are either unaware of the law or merely lazy to carry out their duties.

"It is often easier and quicker to ask someone to drop into the police station under their own steam, rather than get organised and swift them in," said Mr Tashaya.

However, when contacted for comment Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said phoning a suspect is part of police efforts in conducting investigations.

"If a report is made, police use any possible means to conduct investigations. When the police phone you to present yourself at the station it doesn't mean that you are under arrest," he said.

"It is entirely up to you to respond to the call. For some, once they are called or are made aware that they are being sought by the law, hand themselves over. So phoning a suspect is just generally part of police efforts to conduct investigations," said Ins Ncube.

A senior police officer who requested anonymity also said it is impossible for police to carry out investigations over the phone but making a phone call was a mode of reaching out to suspects as a way of assisting their investigations.

"I can't interview someone on the phone, but if I explain that they are a suspect and there are questions they may wish to respond to, then they can set an appointment that suits them and be prepared.

"They may not even be arrested. The common misconception is that if we call someone, they will skip town. But if I phone you, I already know your name, address, phone number," said the police officer.

Source - The Chronicle