It is important, after an incident, to have records in place as soon as possible. Too often the matter is left for the day when the company is going to court, or a disciplinary hearing is scheduled.
We are all familiar with how long after an incident a matter will be brought to court or the hearing activated, and how often the proceedings will be postponed. This fact alone should be enough reason to ensure records are secured without any delay.
Incidents happen at very inconvenient times and usually management will only hear about it much later. By that time too many people are already involved or have had something to say.
The number of people involved can be controlled by ensuring they all submit the necessary affidavit within a day or two after the incident. Soon the message will be clear and the ‘crime scene’ purified.
The good and standard practice of ensuring completed, signed and dated affidavits for all criminal and disciplinary matters are on record without delay will prove to be the golden standard for any department, organisation or company. Take note: an affidavit is only valid when signed and dated.
Ensure your organisation or department is familiar with records that may be requested as part of criminal or disciplinary proceedings. A checklist for records to be in place should be available and should be reviewed annually at the least.
The records must be evaluated for correctness in terms of references to the incident, and the relevant dates reflected in these documents complete the chain of evidence and chain of custody. All records must be traceable to the date and time of the incident.
Securing the relevant records (including affidavits) within days is important for the following reasons:
• The relevant person may not be available in future to provide the records/affidavit.
• The relevant person left the environment, has no commitment to the environment anymore and such a request at a later stage may simply be ignored.
• The relevant person needs to rely on their memory of the incident at a later stage to complete the records or to submit an affidavit.
• A record or affidavit provided at a much later stage than the date of the incident will leave room for the defence to question the credibility of the information and the person’s memory.
• Indicating in court that records were compiled by notes that were made at the time of the incident may result in the court requesting access to the mentioned notes.
• Such a request by the court must be complied with and can potentially lead to more questions being asked on the matter, especially if the notes do not relate to the affidavit.
• If, for some reason, such notes are not available as referred to, the person will be seen as an unreliable witness.
• Departments, organisations and companies with a history of many incidents must have a policy and a sound system in place, ensuring the records are in place within 2 to 3 days of the incident.
• An organised environment creates trust and usually has an easier day in court.
• The message will soon be clear that the required records are available and sound.
Managing the records is an essential part of the process. The saying ‘what gets managed, gets done’ has a lot of value, as often experienced by management.
Records must be secured in an organised manner by having all information related to a specific incident easily available and together. Records must be referenced and traceable to the specific incident (see article in Hi-Tech Security Solutions, Issue 8 2021, www.securitysa.com/14945r). The referencing system to use needs to be documented and not determined by each individual working on these cases.
Archiving of records must also be done in such a manner that the records do not deteriorate over time.
A policy needs to be in place on how long records need to be archived, taking into consideration possible claims at a later stage. It is recommended that legal advice is obtained on this matter. On the completion of the criminal case, there is also the possibility of a civil case.
Policies and procedures are of great value in providing a standard approach, and can also be used for managing performance.
Rather be prepared for the worst than lose a case because of a lack of sound records when it was possible to have such records secured.
Sonja de Klerk retired from the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory as a brigadier. She provides expert advice on CCTV management to secure images as evidence and presents training courses on CCTV management for footage to be presented in court, forensic evidence to expect as part of criminal activities, evidence management, how to present expert testimony in court and the importance of traceable records. Her expertise is also available for independent and confidential audits, evaluations and consultation on the traceability of records in an organisation. She is also the author of ‘The Complete Manual on CCTV Management’ (second edition).
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