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Law enforcement: MOJ seeks inquiry over Police evidence procedure

Law enforcement: MOJ seeks inquiry over Police evidence procedure

19 Mar 2023 | By Asiri Fernando

  • Justice Minister criticises ‘false arrests’
  • 7% of samples tested were negative for narcotics
  • Six Police stations flagged for filing negative samples

The Ministry of Justice has last week written to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) seeking an inquiry into a high number of narcotics cases filed by some Police stations, which have later fallen apart due to the evidence samples testing negative for any controlled substance, The Sunday Morning learns.

According to Minister of Justice Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, the Government Analyst’s Department had received and tested 16,479 samples of suspected narcotics between 1 January and 31 December 2022.

Out of the total number of samples, 1,034 or 7% had returned negative readings, indicating the absence of any narcotic substance that the samples were tested for.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Minister Rajapakshe said it had been observed that several Police stations had filed an abnormally high number of evidence samples, which, once tested, turned out to be negative for narcotics.

“I have looked into this matter after I received several complaints from members of the public regarding such practices, where it is alleged that some Officers-In-Charge (OICs) have filed false cases against some members of the public with revenge and extortion in mind. A high number of negative cases have been filed from specific Police stations,” the Minister of Justice explained.

Over the last two decades, allegations of Police ‘planting’ evidence to make arrests of suspects or intimidating people with the threat of such have been reported. 

Once the Police make an arrest and file the evidence, a suspect will likely be remanded pending the forensic analysis report on the substance and the purity of any narcotic present. 

As such analysis takes several months to complete due to an ongoing backlog of narcotics related cases, it often results in suspects being remanded for months.

According to Minister Rajapakshe, the Borella Police Station has filed the highest number of such samples, with 37 such negative narcotics evidence samples sent to the Government Analyst. 

The Peliyagoda Police Station has been found to have filed 35 such negative cases, Wattala 28, Kirulapone 25, and Gampaha 23.

“It was following complaints from residents of these areas that I looked into this matter and found that a number of bogus cases have been filed. It if was one or two, it can be deemed an error or a false sale to drug users, but such numbers suggest there is something else at work. These are the numbers from the false reports from 2022,” Rajapakshe said. 

Attempts to contact Police Spokesperson SSP Nihal Thalduwa on the irregularities found and what action the Police would take proved futile.

Forensic test costs

Annual narcotics testing in Sri Lanka costs more than Rs. 180 million, with each test for a suspected narcotics sample costing around Rs. 10,000-12,000, according to the Ministry of Justice.

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