Police: Many arrested, few go to jail

Sloppy evidence gathering by police & political interference mean many criminals stay out of jail where they should be.

Photo above of police investigators at the crime scene where they will gather evidence. Here the crime scene is Morchit bus station where smuggled weapons were found in bus.

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Crimes

Why so many crooks walk

Expert says poor police work, political meddling yield low conviction rates
20/08/2012
Wassayos Ngamkham

Thailand's police need to be modernised, as a high rate of acquittals in court suggests the way officers collect evidence is flawed, a criminology expert has said.

Decha Sungkawan, director of the Centre for Criminology Research and Development (CCRD) at Thammasat University, also said the police force's ability to perform its duties is held back by a lack of trust, as the public perceives officers to be controlled by politicians.

Police need to build stronger cases to present to court and keep a distance from politics, he said.

Mr Decha said that although police investigations could appear to look professional and on par with international standards - with a high percentage of suspects arrested - many cases were riddled with "loopholes" and consequently dismissed by courts.

"The investigation or evidence gathering is the police's primary job. This is their main role in enforcing the law and bringing wrongdoers to justice," he said.

Mr Decha said police are expected to arrest a very high number of suspects charged, if not every single one of them.

But even if they manage this, it cannot be a credible indicator of success if the suspects are then acquitted in court.

The high number of acquittals suggest the evidence presented at trials is weak and there are problems with how on-site evidence is gathered.

"Japan's rate of arrests, especially in felony offences, is high. Their evidence gathering is effective, which boosts the rate of convictions," Mr Decha said.

"Indicators in some research papers pointed to shoddy evidence collection by police and problems with the investigators themselves. "There's lots of room for improvement," Mr Decha said.

The institution's perceived servitude to politicians has kept it from achieving international standards of operation and earning the trust of the public, he added.

In the past, control over the police force was used by political players to bargain for power, and this practice continues today, he said.

Research by the CCRD on justice and personal security indicates that political interference with police work has held back progress in the force and eroded public faith in the police.

The research included a random survey to gauge people's level of confidence in institutions and individuals involved in the justice system. On a scale of 10, the police force received the lowest rating of 5.5, followed by lawyers with 5.9, prosecutors with 6.4, corrections officials with a score of 7 and the courts, 7.2. 

"Thailand has a high number of cases of serious crimes, compared to a lot of other countries. It's been this way for a long time," he said.

Mr Decha also said the justice system was not functioning well because of problems with the law itself, violations of the sanctity of the law and lax law enforcement.

Investigators enjoy a high degree of discretion in deciding whether to arrest or not arrest someone, he said.

"And there is no one to keep an eye on the police," he added.

These factors have turned Thailand into a haven for transnational criminal gangs, he said.

Immigration screening has also fallen short in some aspects, which can make the border porous, Mr Decha said.
 
The CCRD's academic papers and research related to the Thai justice system were presented at the 10th National Symposium of Justice Administration, which concluded on Aug 9 in Bangkok.

Contact Crime Track: crimetrack@bangkokpost.co.th

(Source: Bangkok Post, Crimes, Why so many crooks walk, Expert says poor police work, political meddling yield low conviction rates
20/08/2012,  Wassayos Ngamkham, link)


Law Enforcement Vocabulary

law enforcement - what the police do: taking action to prevent and punish crimes by "engaging in patrols or surveillance to dissuade and discover criminal activity," and investigating crimes and arresting offenders (See Wikipedia)

criminology - the scientific study of crime and criminals (See Wikipedia)

investigation - the process of trying to find out all the details or facts about something, for example a criminal case การสอบสวน การตรวจสอบหาข้อเท็จจริง
police investigation

investigators - people or police who do investigation
police investigators

crime scene -  "a location where an illegal act took place ... the area from which most of the physical evidence is retrieved by trained law enforcement personnel ... crime scene investigators (CSIs)" (See Wikipedia)

smuggled weapons - weapons brought illegally from one place to another place

conviction - when someone is officially found to be guilty of a particular crime การพิสูจน์ว่ากระทำผิด
conviction rates

sloppy - done carelessly or badly, without skill
sloppy evidence gathering by police

crooks - criminals, people who break the law
walk - meaning: not found guilty of a crime (so don't have to go to jail or pay a fine)

Why so many crooks walk

meddling - becoming involved in a situation that that you don't have a right to be involved in (that is none of your business)
political meddling

yield - an amount of something produced ผลผลิต to produce something useful ส่งผล ให้ผลที่ดี
yield low conviction rates

Expert says poor police work, political meddling yield low conviction rates

acquittal
- when a person is found not guilty of a crime by a court
evidence - facts statements or objects that help to prove whether or not someone has committed a crime หลักฐาน

flawed
- has mistakes, defects, and imperfections; spoiled by something มีข้อบกพร่อง
flawed evidence

Thailand's police need to be modernised, as a high rate of acquittals in court suggests the way officers collect evidence is flawed, a criminology expert has said.

duties - responsibilities, things that you must do because of your job or position รับผิดชอบ
preform duties
ability to perform its duties

lack - does not have ขาดแคลน
trust - when people believe in each other and have confidence in each other (so they can work together effectively) ความเชื่อมั่น
lack of trust

held back by - cannot move forward
held back by a lack of trust

perceive ... - believe or have the feeling that ...
the public perceives officers to be controlled by politicians.

Decha Sungkawan, director of the Centre for Criminology Research and Development (CCRD) at Thammasat University, also said the police force's ability to perform its duties is held back by a lack of trust, as the public perceives officers to be controlled by politicians.

distance - to act in a way that shows that you are not connected with someone or something เขยิบออก
keep a distance from - stay away from, not get involved in

police need to keep a distance from politics

Police need to build stronger cases to present to court and keep a distance from politics, he said.

professional - when work or a job is done in a skilled manner; following rules to get results
look professional - when people see or feel that a service is provided in a professional manner

international - ระหว่างประเทศ between countries
standards - a level of quality or achievement that must be passed to be acceptable มาตรฐาน
international standards

on par -
equal to
on par with international standards

suspects - people that the police think might be guilty of a crime ผู้ต้องสงสัย

loopholes - legal ways to get around a law
riddled with - has lots of (something bad)
riddled with loopholes

many cases were riddled with loopholes

dismiss - refused to accept; considered something to be unimportant or not good enough to be taken seriously แย้งกลับ โต้กลับ ปฏิเสธ
court dismisses legal case - when a court of law refuses to accept a legal case; throw out a legal case

consequently - later; later on; after that
consequently dismissed by courts.

Mr Decha said that although police investigations could appear to look professional and on par with international standards - with a high percentage of suspects arrested - many cases were riddled with "loopholes" and consequently dismissed by courts.

evidence gathering

primary
- first and most important
primary job - first and most important job

role
- the function or purpose that someone or something has in a situation, organisation, society or relationship บทบาท
main role in enforcing the law

justice - when people are treated fairly and equally (See Wikipedia) ความยุติธรรม
bring to justice - punish someone for a crime or something bad that they did
bringing wrongdoers to justice

"The investigation or evidence gathering is the police's primary job. This is their main role in enforcing the law and bringing wrongdoers to justice," he said.

expected - believe will happen คาดว่า (จะเกิดขึ้น)
every single
one of them - true for every item in a group (absolutely, no exceptions)

Mr Decha said police are expected to arrest a very high number of suspects charged, if not every single one of them.

credible - believable; able to be believed or trusted น่าเชื่อถือ
indicator - a measure or number that shows or describes a condition or situation (See glossary)
credible indicator of success

acquitted (verb) - found not guilty (of a crime by a court of law)
acquittal (noun) - when a court finds someone not guilty of a crime

site - a place where something happened ที่เกิดเหตุ  สถานที่ สถานที่เกิดเหตุ
on-site - at the place where something happened or is happening
on-site evidence - evidence of a crime at the place where the crime happened
gathering of on-site evidence

But even if they manage this, it cannot be a credible indicator of success if the suspects are then acquitted in court. The high number of acquittals suggest the evidence presented at trials is weak and there are problems with how on-site evidence is gathered.

felony - serious crime which can be punished by one or more years in prison ความผิดอาญาร้ายแรง
felony offences

effective - works well, gets the job done; producing the result that was intended ได้ผลดี
evidence gathering is effective
 
boosts - improves or increases something ส่งเสริม
boosts the rate of convictions

"Japan's rate of arrests, especially in felony offences, is high. Their evidence gathering is effective, which boosts the rate of convictions," Mr Decha said.

pointed - direct, in a way that shows you are annoyed or do not agree with something ที่เด่นชัด
research papers pointed to

shoddy - done carelessly or badly
sloppy - Same as "shoddy"
shoddy evidence collection by police

improvement - when something gets better or when you make it better การปรับปรุง, การทำให้ดีขึ้น
room for improvement - still not the best it could be (can still be improved)
there's lots of room for improvement

"Indicators in some research papers pointed to shoddy evidence collection by police and problems with the investigators themselves. "There's lots of room for improvement," Mr Decha said.

servitude - when a person must follow the orders of another (like a "servant")  
servitude to politicians

perceived -
how people see a situation or believe a situation to be
perceived servitude to politicians

international standards
achieving international standards of operation

trust
the trust of the public
earning the trust of the public

The institution's perceived servitude to politicians has kept it from achieving international standards of operation and earning the trust of the public, he added.

players - an important people or companies in a situation or industry ผู้ค้าคนสำคัญ หรือผู้ค้ารายใหญ่
political players

bargain for power

practice - a way of doing something that people do regularly and often การปฏิบัติ
this practice continues today

In the past, control over the police force was used by political players to bargain for power, and this practice continues today, he said.

justice

security - the activity of making safe or protecting from harm, making safe and removing dangers ความปลอดภัย
personal security

interference
- the process of deliberately becoming involved in a situation and trying to influence the way that it develops การเข้าแทรกแซง
political interference
political interference with police work

progress
- the process of gradually improving something; improving and developing over time, advance, go forward;  completing tasks that move you towards achieving a goal ก้าวหน้า ความก้าวหน้า
held back progress
held back progress in the police force

faith in -
believe in; have trust in
public faith in

erode -
1. decrease or destroy slowly; 2. when water runs over hill, mountain or slope and washes it away
eroded public faith in the police

Research by the CCRD on justice and personal security indicates that political interference with police work has held back progress in the force and eroded public faith in the police.

random - happening, done or chosen by chance rather than according to a plan ซึ่งไม่มีแบบแผน
survey - gathering information about what people think about different subjects (public opionion) by asking large numbers of people questions and counting their answers, and then using statistics, graphs, and tables to present results (See Wikipedia)  การสำรวจความเห็น
a random survey

gauge
- measure
confidence - trusting and believing in something ความมั่นใจ ความเชื่อมั่น
gauge people's level of confidence in the justice system

institutions - large and important organizations, such as universities or banks สถาบัน
individuals - persons บุคคล

institutions and individuals involved in the justice system
people's level of confidence in institutions and individuals involved in the justice system

scale - a set of numbers used to measure something (example: please rate the service on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being perfect)
On a scale of 10

rating - a number used to measure how good something is (or its quality) 
the police force received the lowest rating of 5.5

sanctity - the special importance that traditional institutions have (such as religious or legal institutions)
sanctity of the law

violations - breaking the law
violations of the sanctity of the law

lax - not paying enough attention to rules, or not caring enough about quality or safety ละเลย
law enforcement - making sure a law is obeyed and punishing people if it is not obeyed บังคับใช้กฎหมาย
lax law enforcement.

The research included a random survey to gauge people's level of confidence in institutions and individuals involved in the justice system. On a scale of 10, the police force received the lowest rating of 5.5, followed by lawyers with 5.9, prosecutors with 6.4, corrections officials with a score of 7 and the courts, 7.2.  "Thailand has a high number of cases of serious crimes, compared to a lot of other countries. It's been this way for a long time," he said. Mr Decha also said the justice system was not functioning well because of problems with the law itself, violations of the sanctity of the law and lax law enforcement.

discretion - when a person or organization can decide themselves what to do (rather than asking higher level authorities what to do)
a high degree of discretion
enjoy a high degree of discretion

Investigators enjoy a high degree of discretion in deciding whether to arrest or not arrest someone, he said.

keep an eye on - watch for problems (that may happen)

"And there is no one to keep an eye on the police," he added.

factors - all the things that affect a situation or event ปัจจัย
haven - a home for

transnational - involving more than one country; present in more than one country ข้ามชาติ
transnational criminal gangs - groups of criminals that work in many countries

These factors have turned Thailand into a haven for transnational criminal gangs, he said.

screening
- checking before accepting, checking for problems, safety, or suitability
immigration screening - checking people coming into the country (to see if they have a visa or permission to enter)

fallen short - failed to achieve goals (it should have achieved by now)

porous -
when things can pass through easily (from one side to the other)
border - the official line separating two areas, regions or countries เขตแดน อาณาเขต
porous border - when people can move from one country to the other easily

Immigration screening has also fallen short in some aspects, which can make the border porous, Mr Decha said.

academic - someone who teaches at a college, or who studies as part of their job นักวิชาการ
academic papers - short articles that describe the results of research projects at universities

concluded -
ended

The CCRD's academic papers and research related to the Thai justice system were presented at the 10th National Symposium of Justice Administration, which concluded on Aug 9 in Bangkok.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer