Namibia: Procedures to report a crime to the police; information contained in police reports; procedures to obtain police documents from within Namibia or from abroad
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||16 August 2012|
|Citation / Document Symbol||NAM104146.E|
|Related Document||Namibie : information sur la marche à suivre pour signaler un crime à la police; les renseignements contenus dans les rapports de police; la marche à suivre pour obtenir des documents de la police depuis la Namibie ou l'étranger|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Namibia: Procedures to report a crime to the police; information contained in police reports; procedures to obtain police documents from within Namibia or from abroad, 16 August 2012, NAM104146.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5053368e2.html [accessed 20 May 2013]|
1. Procedures to Report a Crime
In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, the Director of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), a Namibian human rights public interest law firm based in Windhoek, whose areas of work include legal information and advice on human rights, research on implementation of laws and advocacy for legislative reform (LAC n.d.), stated that "a person reporting a crime would have to provide personal details, details of the crime and then depose to an affidavit of the occurrence" (LAC 20 July 2012).
In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a police officer with the Tourist Protection Unit of the Namibian Police (NAMPOL) explained that if a crime is reported over the phone, the police will respond to the scene, take down information, and may assist the victim or witness to go to the police station to make an official statement or lay charges (NAMPOL 3 Aug. 2012). The officer added that victims or witnesses may also go to a police station directly to make a complaint and provide an official statement (ibid.). The officer added that once a case is opened, it is assigned a reference number (ibid.). A complainant may refer to this number in order to check on the progress of the case or to obtain copies of his or her statement or other documents related to the case (ibid.).
The officer said that whenever someone visits a police station, it is recorded on the registrar (ibid.). The officer specified that the information is first manually recorded, with physical records kept permanently, and thereafter also entered electronically into a database (ibid.).
Sources indicate that the procedures to report a crime to the police are standard throughout Namibia (ibid.; Chair 9 Aug. 2012; NamRights 18 July 2012; LAC 20 July 2012). However, the LAC Director noted that "given the vastness of Namibia, it would obviously be much easier to report crime in urban areas" (ibid.). Furthermore, the Executive Director of NamRights, a Namibian NGO that monitors human rights in the country and offers paralegal services to victims of human rights violations (NamRights n.d.), observed that "there have been numerous cases where such procedures were not followed by police officers" due to "neglicence or ignorance" (ibid. 18 July 2012). The Executive Director added that there were reportedly "many cases of police officers refusing to record complaints due to "complicity with suspects or accused persons" (ibid.). The LAC Director similarly stated that "there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that in certain instances the police do not take the reporting of crime seriously, for example whe[n] a man is beaten by his wife, or whe[n] violence occurs against homosexuals or sex workers" (20 July 2012).
2. Content of Police Dockets
According to the NamRights Executive Director, police reports or dossiers, more commonly known as police dockets, "must contain all legally actionable information" (18 July 2012). According to the LAC Director, in addition to the personal details on the complainant, the details of the crime, and the affidavit deposed by the complainant, the content of a docket might include such documents as an investigation journal, witness statements and forensic tests results (20 July 2012).
In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, the Chair of the Law Reform and Development Commission of Namibia provided details on the format and content of police dockets after consulting with the Prosecutor General of Namibia and the Namibian Police (Chair 9 Aug. 2012). According to the information provided by the Chair, police dockets include three main sections and are divided as follows:
The first part contains witness statements as well as warning statements made by the suspect. The second part contains all the correspondence, if any, relating to the investigation. The third part contains the investigation diary, which contains the methods and tactics employed by the police in investigating a specific crime and further in finding and apprehending the suspect. (ibid.)
The Chair added that, according to the Namibian Police, the dockets should include the following information:
the time, date, when and where an incident occurred, the detailed descriptions of [the] occurrence, [the] particulars of witnesses, any possible information about the suspects, the instruments used [and] the value of the property involved or recovered, if any. (ibid.)
The officer of the Namibian Police similarly explained that all police dockets include investigation diaries in which all pertinent information relating to the investigative process is recorded, such as who has been questioned, how far the investigation process has progressed, and any possible leads in the case (NAMPOL 3 Aug. 2012).
According to the Chair, police dockets follow the same standards throughout the country (9 Aug. 2012). However, according to the NamRights Executive Director, the existing standard format for dockets is "not always followed" (18 July 2012).
The Namibian police officer stated that certified copies of the complainant's statement, witness statements and other supporting documents depending on the type of case, such as medical reports in cases of assault or financial documents in cases of fraud, are provided upon request (NAMPOL 3 Aug. 2012). However, the officer stated that the investigation diary may be shared with the Prosecutor's office, but that only police officers and prosecutors have access to it (ibid.). Similarly, the Chair of the Law Reform and Development Commission of Namibia indicated that the investigation diary "is privileged and its content may not be revealed to the suspect" (9 Aug. 2012).
3. Procedure to Obtain Documents from Police Dockets
According to the officer of the Namibian Police, it is possible to verify whether a person has made a police complaint or statement using the reference number of the case (NAMPOL 3 Aug. 2012). The officer explained that it is possible for third parties to obtain some basic details on an incident, such as the circumstances of an alleged assault or other crimes, giving the example of an insurance company being able to verify that a theft had been reported (ibid.).
The Chair of the Law Reform and Development Commission of Namibia explained that, according to the Namibian Police,
there are no difficulties in obtaining a copy of the police report as long as he/she is the complainant or witness in the case concerned. That person is at liberty to request a copy of the statement that he/she made to the police. There are no obstacles that can prevent someone from getting a copy of his/her own statement from the police. (9 Aug. 2012)
The Namibia Police officer explained that to obtain copies of documents from a police docket on an ongoing investigation, it is necessary to directly contact the officer responsible for the investigation (NAMPOL 3 Aug. 2012). If the case is transferred to another officer, it is that officer that must be contacted (ibid). It is possible to determine which officer is responsible for the file through the reference number of the case (ibid.).
The officer explained that there is no specific form that needs to be filled out to obtain documents from a police docket, but that a fee of 13 Namibian dollars [about 1.6 Canadian dollars (XE 3 Aug. 2012)] is charged (NAMPOL 3 Aug. 2012). The requested documents can be sent by fax or email (ibid.). The officer could not provide an exact time frame to obtain documents from a police docket, saying that it depends on the availability of the responsible investigative officer and whether the case has been transferred to another officer (ibid.).
The officer also stated that after a case has gone to trial or has been otherwise closed, documents from older dockets may be obtained from the archives of police stations (ibid.). The same fee applies, and the documents can be provided without delay (ibid.).
The officer explained that generally, it would only be the complainant who can obtain copies of documents from the police docket, but the complainant may also give permission to a third party to acquire them (ibid.). The officer stated that to do so, the complainant can provide a letter granting permission, or the police officer can obtain the complainant's consent over the phone (ibid). However, the Chair of the Law Reform and Development Commission of Namibia stated that according to the Namibian police, "[i]t is not common for someone to obtain a copy of a statement on behalf of a second person unless it is a civil matter or on request via the relevant authorities" (Chair 9 Aug. 2012).
The Chair stated that an accused person or his or her legal representative are entitled to obtain the content of a police docket (ibid.). The Chair added that "[r]elatives [of the accused] may be given the content of the docket in some circumstances, however written consent from the accused must be produced as proof that such relative is requesting for the content of such docket on behalf of the accused" (ibid.). However, the Chair stated that
a notable challenge is whe[n] the case is still at the investigation stage and the accused wants to peruse the content of the docket, the state may object. It is up to the accused to approach the court, and upon his evidence the court will decide whether the state should be compelled to hand over the content of the docket or not. (ibid.)
The Chair also stated that while a witness is entitled to obtain a copy of the statement that he or she gave to the police, witnesses are not entitled to see the rest of the content of the police docket (ibid.).
The Chair added that "a person with no interest whatsoever in the matter cannot request for the content of a docket" (ibid.). Nevertheless, the NamRights Executive Director said that the content of police dockets become public information after a case has been adjudicated upon "and hence can be obtained by anyone, including those who are outside the country" (18 July 2012).
However, the Chair stated that if a foreign court wishes to obtain a copy of a police docket, a request must be made according to the provisions of the Namibian International Co-operation in Criminal Matters Act, 2000 (Chair 9 Aug. 2012). According to the Chair, such a request must be sent to the central authority of Namibia; it is then forwarded to the relevant institution (such as the police or court) that will then provide the requested information from the docket or respond to any related questions (ibid.). Article 7 of the International Co-operation in Criminal Matters Act, 2000 specifies that such requests should be sent to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, although they may be sent directly to the relevant magistrate's court "in a case of urgency" (Namibia 2000).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Chair of the Law Reform and Development Commission of Namibia. 9 August 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.
Legal Assistance Centre (LAC). 20 July 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by the Director.
_____. N.d. "About."
Namibia. 2000. International Co-operation in Criminal Matters Act, 2000 (Act 9 of 2000).
Namibian Police (NAMPOL). 3 August 2012. Telephone interview with a police officer with the Tourist Protection Unit.
NamRights. 18 July 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by the Executive Director.
NamRights. N.d. "NamRights Profile".
XE. 3 August 2012. "Currency Converter Widget."
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral Sources: Attempts to contact the following were unsuccessful: Embassy of Namibia in Washington, D.C.; Windhoek City Police; Namibian Paralegal Association; professor of law, University of Namibia; Human Rights and Documentation Centre, University of Namibia; Legal Research and Development Trust of Namibia; Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies, Polytechnic University of Namibia.
Internet Sites: European Country of Origin Information Network; Factiva; Human Rights and Documentation Centre; Interpol; Konrad Adenauer Foundation; Namibia — Anti-Corruption Commission, Government of Namibia, Superior Courts; The Namibian; Namibian Paralegal Association; Namibian Police; Namibian Sun; New Era; United Kingdom — Home Office; United Nations — Integrated Regional Information Networks, Refworld.