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Remarks documented on medico-legal examination forms on sexual abuse cases; are they properly comprehended by the police?

Authors:

IDG Kitulwatte ,

Faculty of Medicine, Ragama, LK
About IDG
Department of Forensic Medicine
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WRAS Rajapaksha,

Faculty of Medicine, Ragama, LK
About WRAS
Department of Forensic Medicine
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PAS Edirisinghe,

Faculty of Medicine, Ragama, LK
About PAS
Department of Forensic Medicine
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WNS Perera,

Faculty of Medicine, Ragama, LK
About WNS
Department of Forensic Medicine
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NASP Wijerathna,

Faculty of Medicine, Ragama, LK
About NASP
Department of Forensic Medicine
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AAS Sihanada,

Faculty of Medicine, Ragama, LK
About AAS
Department of Forensic Medicine
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BAAR Bulathsinhala,

Faculty of Medicine, Ragama, LK
About BAAR
Department of Forensic Medicine
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R Gunathilake

Faculty of Medicine, Ragama, LK
About R
Department of Forensic Medicine
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Abstract

Introduction : Expert medical evidence is widely used in sexual abuse cases, but its contribution to the progress of legal cases is unclear. Poor understanding of the remarks given by the medical officers in a Medico Legal Examination Form (MLEF) in alleged sexual abuse cases by the police officers may affect effective administration of justice.

Objective: This study is mainly aimed at assessing the degree of understanding by the police officers’ when reading three commonly expressed medico-legal remarks in cases of alleged sexual abuse. Secondly, to identify the areas of poor understanding, for which interventions need to be carried out.

Study Design: Cross sectional descriptive study was conducted among 64 police officers, in the rank of police constables and sergeants from western province, who are attending to routine work of a police station (criminal investigations, children and women’s desk and traffic unit). Data collection was done by self administered questionnaire after a briefing regarding the study and instructions on how to fill the questionnaire.

Results: 72% of the officers believed that they understood the statements written on Medico-Legal Examination Form (MLEF) when it is in native language while only 32% believed so for statements in English. However the analysis of the correct responses revealed that only 28.9% of officers understood the exact meaning in native language while it was 10.4% for English. The understanding about the statement on absence of medical evidence to confirm or exclude the allegation when given in Sinhala was 26.6% while it was 10.9% in English. The statement on evidence of vaginal penetration has been correctly understood by 20.3% in Sinhala while it is 7.8 % in English.

Conclusion: Statements made in native language are approximately three times better understood than the ones made in English. However, overall understanding of the remarks made by doctors was very poor. It is high time we take necessary actions to intervene if our goal is effective administration of justice.

Medico-Legal Journal of Sri Lanka 2013; 1(2) : 23-28

How to Cite: Kitulwatte, I. et al., (2014). Remarks documented on medico-legal examination forms on sexual abuse cases; are they properly comprehended by the police?. Medico-Legal Journal of Sri Lanka. 1(2), pp.23–28. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/mljsl.v1i2.7290
Published on 12 Aug 2014.
Peer Reviewed

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