LHC issues 15 guidelines over sexual assault cases

Judge issues directives on collection, packaging and transportation of evidence

​ Our Correspondent June 27, 2020

LAHORE: Lahore High Court (LHC)’s Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, in his verdict he handed, issued 15 guidelines for the collection, packaging and transportation of evidence in sexual assault cases.

He was hearing a post-arrest bail case of an accused of allegedly raping a ten-year-old minor, the son of the complainant. The FIR was registered on August 2, 2019, at Dijkot police station, Faisalabad district.

In the first guideline, PFSA Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits (SAECK) were designed for the effective collection of evidence from the victims of sexual assault. PFSA SAECKs must always be used for the collection and packaging of evidence in rape cases.

Secondly, the victim’s garments worn at the time of assault should be collected and packaged in the envelope provided in the sexual assault evidence kit.

Thirdly, evidence should be collected after a thorough evaluation of the assault and after background history was obtained, if possible. Documentation typically referred to as medico-legal examination report or certificate (MLC) should contain specific information about the assault, what items were collected during the exam, and personal information from the victim. Before collection of evidentiary items, medico-legal examiners must consider several factors to assist in guiding their collection and treatment efforts. These factors may include the assault activity, the time elapsed since the assault, post-assault activities, the age and gender of the victim. In addition to this, evidence collection should be guided by background history, focusing specifically on the suspect’s actions during the assault. If the victim was unable to recollect a complete background history due to trauma or pre-existing mental incapacity, a full range of samples should be collected assisted by the physical assessment.

Additional considerations before sample collection must include the activities of the victim following the assault. Activities that may impact evidence collection include bathing, brushing of teeth, mouthwash, vomiting, douching, urination and defecation. Careful consideration of the assault activities and post-assault activities before sample collection is vital.

Moreover, internal swabs such as from the private parts or mouth may still be viable for collection even after showering by the victim, dependent upon the length and thoroughness of the cleansing and time since the assault.

Meanwhile, garments and wipes must always be collected and submitted for DNA analysis regardless of the time elapsed since the sexual assault.

Evidential items were collected with the perspective of recovering as much DNA foreign to the victim as possible during the collection process. Measures should, therefore, be taken to concentrate the foreign material by using the fewest number of swabs necessary for the collection site.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2020.


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