Legal experts query need for crime re-enactment

national June 17, 2013 00:00

By Opas Boonlom,
Patinya Iamtan,

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The police handling of the investigation into the recent murder of Akeyuth Anchanbutr has whipped up controversy and criticism. The police are not required by law to include a crime re-enactment in their investigation, but why do they, including those han

Courts are no longer allowed to accept as evidence suspects’ accounts during their re-enactment of serious crimes after laws were amended to prevent a repeat of some high-profile criminal cases in which scapegoats were convicted.
A common scene at any crime re-enactment is police “dictating” to their suspects, such as carrying out actions as a sort of wrap up by police of their investigation. For instance, during a re-enactment, if the suspect hits a “victim” on his leg, police will instruct the suspect to also hit his head, if the victim had a head injury. 
A Metropolitan Police specialist said a re-enactment is important for an investigation because each criminal or each gang behaves differently in committing a crime. Details on how criminals commit each crime help the police understand the pattern of a crime. This can help them track down other criminals showing the same behaviour pattern and help reduce the loss of life and property. 
Crime re-enactments must be kept for future investigation, he said.
Jessada Anujari, a director of the Law Society of Thailand, disapproves of the practice, especially when police dictate to the suspects. He said a re-enactment is superfluous if suspects have already confessed to a crime. 
Re-enactments are not common in foreign countries. 
How much weight is given to re-enactments at trials? 
Sri-amporn Salikup, chief justice of the Supreme Court, said a re-enactment provides an imaginative model of how the crime is committed.
For crimina l cases liable to over five years imprisonment, the court will not consider suspects’ testimony during police investigations, whether confessions or denials. A confession is not enough for conviction and police must provide evidence to prove that suspects committed a crime. If a suspect reverses his confession during a trial, then the re-enactment is meaningless, he said.
Paiboon Warahapaitoon, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, said the independent organisation had asked police to consider human rights during re-enactments because suspects are regarded as innocent until proven otherwise. 
The widely publicised murder of Thai-American teenager Sherry Ann Duncan in 1986 was an example of a miscarriage of justice. The court, under the old law, accepted confessions made during police investigations into its decision to convict four suspects.
The ill-conceived police investigation and the court’s wrongful conviction of the four men in that that case have gone down in the country’s history as a travesty of justice.