Courts' hands tied

At the end of January, 1 000 urgent court cases were on hold pending the completion of DNA and other forensic examinations.

12 February 2020 | Justice

Money and staff shortages have led to the National Forensic Science Institute (NFSI) being unable to conduct scientific examinations on time, which is causing court delays.

This is according to a copy of a letter seen by Namibian Sun which forms part of the case file of two Chinese nationals, Xuefeng Chen (29) and Zhenhai Zhou (31), who were arrested in April last year for allegedly murdering Muyevu Andreas Haushiku at Andara village in the Kavango East Region.

Haushiku, who worked for Chen, was allegedly shot in cold blood.

The NFSI's actual expenditure during the 2017/2018 financial year was N$18.6 million, which was projected to grow to N$25 million in the 2019/20 financial year.

The letter, dated 20 January 2020, which informed the Mukwe Periodic Court that the ballistic report which forms part of the case was not yet complete, ascribed the delay to a lack of funds and staff.

“The NFSI currently has no capacity to identify biologically related trace material. The NFSI does not have current capacity to do DNA analysis. The NFSI is experiencing significant challenges in attending to said priority list due to lack of adequate human and financial resources. This case will be prioritised accordingly, once resources are available to commence with scientific analysis,” the letter reads.

It further revealed that as at 20 January 2020, a total of 1 001 urgent cases were on hold pending DNA and scientific analysis.

No comment could be obtained from the NFSI director, Commissioner Paul Ludik, before going to print. The NFSI falls under the safety and security ministry. The institute, which was established in 1993, is tasked with the examination of evidence and crime scenes as part of the Namibian judicial process.



Chinese suspects

Murder suspects Chen and Zhou appeared before Magistrate Sonia Samupofu in the Mukwe Periodic Court on 21 January. The absence of the ballistic report led to the magistrate postponing the matter to 19 May.

In their bail application, the two men claimed they had acted in self-defence after being attacked with a steel hammer by the accused.

They also claimed they were not a flight risk and that their lives were no longer in danger, as the public had come to terms with what had happened.





The two accused were denied bail on 7 October 2019 and have remained in custody ever since.



Magistrate Samupofu said in her ruling on the bail application that after considering the evidence presented she was not persuaded by the defence's arguments.



“The court considered that it is not going to be in the interest of justice to release the suspects on bail,” Samupofu said.



“The offences the two accused are charged with are serious ones. The accused persons are not disputing that they shot the deceased, meaning they have a case to answer to. The State has proven it has a strong case, as it comes with a hefty sentence.



“There is a possibility that they might abscond. Accused one testified that he knows the two State witnesses, one of whom is a former employee; therefore if released on bail they might interfere with the investigation.



“The court has taken note of the testimony that the business of the accused has been suffering ever since they were arrested. However, apart from the business registration documents presented in court, no other supporting documents were presented to show the court how much they were making before the arrest and while they were in custody.



“Therefore, if the court has to compare the arguments and evidence, the one of the State carries more weight. With all evidence taken into account, I am not moved by the defence. Therefore the application is refused,” Samupofu ruled.



Namibian Sun learned yesterday that the two murder suspects have appealed to the High Court to overrule the decision of the lower court that denied them bail.



KENYA KAMBOWE

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