5. THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE RESPONSE TO HOMICIDE

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5. THE CRIMINAL JUSTICERESPONSE TO HOMICIDEPrevious chapters in this study have focused onwhat is known about recorded homicide offences.This chapter focuses, however, on the response ofcriminal justice systems in terms of homicide casessolved by the police, persons arrested for and persons convicted of homicide.Bringing the perpetrators of homicide to justiceand preventing impunity for those responsible forlethal violence is a core responsibility of the State.Indeed, there is international recognition1 that theState is required to provide judicial protection withregard to fundamental rights, including the rightto life. An effective criminal justice system thatensures rigorous investigation, timely prosecutionand fair adjudication of suspected homicideoffenders is a pre-requisite for upholding the ruleof law, as well as for achieving justice for homicidevictims. The widespread impunity of perpetrators,on the other hand, fosters the kind of lawlessnessthat can facilitate more violence, recidivism, organized criminal activities and even contribute to theperpetration of more homicides.Measuring the criminal justice response to homicide requires accurate and reliable data across themain law enforcement, judicial and correctionalinstitutions involved (police, prosecution, courtsand prisons). Data on individual offences andalleged offenders should be collected at each stage(a simplified overview of which is shown in figure5.1) so that every case is followed through thesystem and performance indicators can be calculated. In practice, very few countries have such arecording system and, at the global level, onlyaggregated data on police-recorded offences and1Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 3; InternationalCovenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 6.1.suspected offenders, and court data on personsconvicted, are available for a sufficient number ofcountries to allow at least a basic analysis.Furthermore, data of this type do not give information about fundamental qualitative aspects ofcriminal justice administration, such as the qualityof investigations, the right to legal aid, the fairnessof procedures and the duration of trials, but theydo provide an initial assessment of the capacity ofcountries’ legal systems to deal with homicidalviolence. As only limited data are available forAfrica and Oceania, they are not included in theregional analysis, which exclusively focuses onAsia, the Americas and Europe.Homicide cases: from investigationto sentencingOnce homicide cases are recorded by the police,law enforcement authorities conduct investigations that can eventually lead to the identificationFig. 5.1: Statistical indicators relating to four phases in thecriminal justice processZĞĐŽƌĚŝŶŐ ŽĨ ŚŽŵŝĐŝĚĞ ŽīĞŶĐĞƐWŽůŝĐĞ ŝŶǀĞƐƟŐĂƟŽŶof homicide,ŽŵŝĐŝĚĞ ƌĂƚĞKīĞŶĐĞƐ ĐůĞĂƌĞĚ ŽƵƚ ŽĨ Ăůů ƌĞĐŽƌĚĞĚ ŽīĞŶĐĞƐ ;ĐůĞĂƌĂŶĐĞ ƌĂƚĞͿEƵŵďĞƌ ŽĨ ƐƵƐƉĞĐƚƐ ƉĞƌ ϭϬϬ ŚŽŵŝĐŝĚĞƐ WƌŽƐĞĐƵƟŽŶ ŽĨ ŚŽŵŝĐŝĚĞ ƐƵƐƉĞĐƚƐ ŽŶǀŝĐƟŽŶ ŽĨhomicideŽīĞŶĚĞƌƐEƵŵďĞƌ ŽĨ ĐŽŶǀŝĐƟŽŶƐ ƉĞƌ ϭϬϬ ŚŽŵŝĐŝĚĞƐ;ĐŽŶǀŝĐƟŽŶ ƌĂƚĞͿSource: UNODC.91

GLOBAL STUDYon HomicideFig. 5.2: Homicide clearance rate, byregion (2007-2008 and 2011-2012)Fig. 5.3: Homicide clearance rate andpolice per 100,000 population,by level of homicide rate (2012or latest year)Americas (11 countries)Clearance rate0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%100%Homicide rate 1 (13 countries)Asia (6 countries)Europe (22 countries)Homicide rate 1-9.9 (27 countries)Global (41 countries)Homicide rate 10 (8 countries)0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%100%100200300400500600Police per homicide and policeƉĞƌ ϭϬϬ͕ϬϬϬ ƉŽƉƵůĂƟŽŶ2007-20082011-2012Homicide clearance ratePolice per homicidePolice per 100,000 populaƟonNote: Regional figures represent weighted averages; data on two countriesin Africa and Oceania are included in the global total but not shownseparately. The homicide clearance rate is the percentage of homicidescleared by the police, divided by all homicides recorded by the police inthe same year.Note: Average figures represent un-weighted averages.Source: UN-CTS.Source: UN-CTS.of crime suspects on the basis of the evidence gathered. The first indication of the overall results ofthe police investigation of homicide cases can bedrawn from the “homicide clearance rate”, whichis the percentage of homicides “cleared” of all thosehomicides brought to the attention of the police.In most cases, this means that the police have identified and arrested one or several suspects for aparticular homicide and that the case has beenturned over to the prosecution service.2Europe than in the Americas (about 50 per cent)(see figure 5.2). Several underlying reasons mayaccount for these regional differences, such as thepossibility that the higher homicide rates recordedin the Americas than in Europe and Asia maystretch the capacity of law enforcement institutions in the Americas to investigate each case thoroughly. Also influencing law enforcement’s abilityto clear cases is the type or context of a particularhomicide, as certain typologies, such as those perpetrated by gangs or organized criminal groups,tend to be more challenging to investigate thanothers.4At the global level, the homicide clearance rate isslightly above 60 per cent,3 which means that thepolice are not able to identify a suspect in a largeportion of homicides. At 80 and 85 per cent,respectively, clearance levels are higher in Asia and9202A case will normally be considered “cleared” when a suspecthas been identified by name and charged. In addition, thereare other circumstances that may qualify a case as “cleared”.For example, the police may “clear” a case because the suspecthas died; the suspect is not criminally liable due to age ormental incapacity; evidence has been found that no crime wascommitted; or an identified suspect has made her- or himselfuntraceable.3This is based on data from 41 countries.In countries for which data are available, homicideclearance rates tend to be lower where homicidelevels are higher: in countries with very low homicide rates (less than 1 per 100,000 population),clearance rates average 92 per cent, while in countries with high homicide rates (above 10 per100,000 population), clearance rates are as low as52 per cent (see figure 5.3). It seems that a virtuous4Van Dijk, J. (2008). Pp. 157-158.

THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE RESPONSE TO HOMICIDEFig. 5.4: Homicides, persons suspectedand persons convicted of homicide per 100,000 population, byregion (2011 or latest year)Fig. 5.5: Persons suspected and personsconvicted per 100 homicides, byregion (2011 or latest year)Americas (14 countries)Americas (14 countries)Asia (13 countries)Asia (13 countries)Europe (30 countries)Europe (30 countries)Global (60 countries)Global (60 countries)0510152025 0ZĂƚĞ ƉĞƌ ϭϬϬ͕ϬϬϬ ƉŽƉƵůĂƟŽŶ20406080100120140160 ƵƐƉĞĐƚ ƌĂƚĞͬĐŽŶǀŝĐƟŽŶ ƌĂƚĞ ƉĞƌ ϭϬϬ ŚŽŵŝĐŝĚĞƐPersons suspectedPersons convictedHomicidesPersons suspectedPersons convictedNote: Data on three countries in Africa and Oceania are included in theglobal total but not shown separately.Note: Data on three countries in Africa and Oceania are included in theglobal total but not shown separately.Source: UN-CTS.Source: UN-CTS.circle exists in countries with low homicide levels,where higher clearance rates can in turn act as adeterrent and lower homicide levels further.to persons suspected5 and those convicted of homicide: at the global level, for every 100 homicidevictims, 97 persons are suspected/arrested onhomicide charges, 6 while 43 are convicted ofhomicide (see figure 5.5).Despite the fact that countries with high homiciderates actually have a greater number of police per100,000 population, they have low homicideclearance rates. Therefore the size of the policeforce apparently has no direct impact on the clearance of homicide cases, but the fact that, as mentioned above, police resources can be reallystretched in those countries should be taken intoaccount. The “police to homicide” ratio gives anindication of the number of police officers compared to the number of homicides, which is greaterthan 500 in countries with low homicide rates, butis 25 times lower in countries with high homiciderates (20 police officers per homicide case).Additional information on the outcome of thecriminal justice process is provided by data relatingWhen looking at the criminal justice process at theregional level, for every 100 homicide victimsthere are 53 suspects in the Americas, 151 in Asia5At the international level, there are different definitions andmethodologies for counting persons suspected of a crime.For example, some countries count the number of personsarrested, while others also include persons suspected or cautioned.6Through the successive stages of the criminal justice process,the counting unit is shifted from offences to persons entering into contact with law enforcement and criminal justiceauthorities. The number of suspects can be higher or lowerthan the number of homicides (higher when more than oneperson is suspected of a homicide, or lower when a suspect ischarged with more than one homicide or the police cannotidentify a suspect), but the number of convictions is likely tobe substantially lower than the number of homicide suspects;for many suspects charged with homicide, there will be noconviction because of a lack of evidence.93

GLOBAL STUDYon Homicideand 100 in Europe, while the number of personsconvicted per 100 homicide victims is 24 in theAmericas, 48 in Asia and 81 in Europe (see figure5.5). Thus, in the Americas, where, on average, thehomicide rate is high, the police are able to identify a suspect for slightly more than half of allhomicide victims, but less than 50 per cent ofthose suspected are convicted, meaning that lessthan a quarter of homicides lead to a conviction.In Asia, where homicide rates are lower in general,on average there are multiple suspects for everyhomicide, yet only half of homicides end in a conviction. In Europe, there are as many suspects asthere are homicides, with eight out of ten leadingto a conviction; a high conviction rate by comparison.7With a conviction rate of 24 per cent, the level ofimpunity for homicide in the Americas is ratherhigh. This may be partly due to the fact that, asmentioned previously, the high volume of homicides are a drain on law enforcement and criminaljustice resources. Furthermore, as discussed inchapter 2 of this study, homicides in the Americasare often connected to organized crime or gangactivity and usually have lower clearance and conviction rates compared to other homicide typolo-gies such as intimate partner/family-relatedhomicide or other types of interpersonal homicide.Other possible explanations include the corruption of officials by organized criminal groups and/or the fear of reprisals.With 50 per cent more suspects than homicides,less than a third of whom are convicted, the situation in Asia is harder to explain. It could be relatedto reasons of recording and methodology, with thenumber of those questioned or interviewed regarding a particular homicide being included in thenumber of suspected persons, or a large number ofsuspects arrested without serious grounds, resulting in large numbers of suspects who are not to beprosecuted. But if this is a real difference, it maypoint to inefficiencies in the performance of thepolice and prosecution services. This phenomenonmay also be due to the prevalent types of homicidein Asia as there may be a large share of homicideslinked to typologies that involve more than oneperpetrator, such as various types of domestic violence in which more than one family memberperpetrates the offence. In India, for example, anaverage of two or more suspects are arrested foreach homicide case, suggesting the involvement ofaccomplices.8Fig. 5.6: Percentage distribution of persons convicted of homicide, by sex and by region(2012 or latest year)96%95%4%Americas(9 countries)95%92%8%5%Asia(12 countries)Europe(28 countries)5%Global(53 countries)Percentage of persons convicted of homicideNote: Data on four countries in Africa and Oceania are included in the global total but not shown separately.Source: UN-CTS.794The conviction rate is the number of persons convicted ofhomicide divided by the number of homicides in the sameyear, per 100 homicides. Some limitations of this indicator, dictated by data availability, are that it uses “persons”as counting units (instead of cases) and that it is built usingaggregated annual data even though homicide and its relatedtrial can take place in different calendar years.8National Crime Records Bureau, India (2012). P. 148.

THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE RESPONSE TO HOMICIDEAmericas (5 countries)2511 Countries in Asia for which consistent time series are availableinclude Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Hong Kong,China, India, Israel, Kyrgyzstan and 00620052004Asia (9 countries)151052008200720062005200402003Rate per 100,000 population20HomicidesPersons suspectedPersons convictedEurope (21 countries)25201510520092008200720060200510 Countries in the Americas for which consistent time series areavailable include Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala andMexico.02004Lehti, M. (2013), in Henkirikoskatsaus, Verkkokatsauksia29/2013 (Homicide Review, Web review 29/103).5200391025Rate per 100,000 populationOver the last few years, the gap between thenumber of homicides and the number of convictions has been widening in the Americas.10 Thepolice seem to be able to identify suspects eventhough the number of homicides has increased,but the number of convictions does not follow therising trend (see figure 5.7). In Asia,11 the criminaljustice response to homicide did not change significantly between 2003 and 2011; the gapbetween homicide cases and convictions increasedslightly, with a suspect being convicted in less thanhalf of all homicide cases. In Europe, both the15HomicidesPersons suspectedPersons convictedTrends in the criminal justice responseto homicideA way to monitor the efficiency of criminal justicesystems in relation to the management of homicide cases is to consider trends in homicide as wellas corresponding developments in the levels ofpeople suspected and convicted of homicide. Thisanalysis should not be considered indicative of theoverall performance of the system — as statedearlier, qualitative aspects of criminal justiceadministration should also be accounted for —but it can shed light on whether its resources arebeing used efficiently.202003The vast majority of homicide suspects in allregions are male. Available data indicate that thisgeneral pattern is also the case for homicide convictions, with men accounting for an average of95 per cent of all persons convicted of homicidein 53 countries for which data are available (seefigure 5.6).Fig. 5.7: Homicides, persons suspected ofhomicide and persons convictedof homicide per 100,000 population, by region (2003-2011)Rate per 100,000 populationIn Europe, the level of impunity is much lowerand the vast majority of homicides lead to a conviction. This may be a reflection of the low homicide rates and the adequacy of law enforcementand criminal justice resources, as well as the greaterproportion of interpersonal homicides, in whichvictim and perpetrator are often known to eachother, increasing the likelihood that an investigation will establish a clear link between the perpetrator and the crime. For example, in Finland, 90per cent of all homicide victims between 2003 and2011 were known to the offender.9HomicidesPersons suspectedPersons convictedSource: UN-CTS.95

GLOBAL STUDYon HomicideFig. 5.9: Total prison population per100,000 population, prisonersconvicted of homicide per 100,000population, and prisoners convicted of homicide as a percentageof all prisoners, selected regions(2012 or latest year)90807060ZĂƚĞ ƉĞƌ ϭϬϬ͕ϬϬϬ 8.87%50.510201120102009200820072006200520040Europe (21 countries)Asia (9 countries)Americas (5 countries)Note: The conviction rate is the number of persons convicted ofhomicide divided by the number of homicides in the same year,per 100 homicides.Source: UN-CTS.Asia (5 countries)64.52.54%Northern and Western Europe(10 countries)134.5A direct way to monitor the efficiency of the criminal justice system is to examine time trends inhomicide conviction rates, which are very diverseat the regional level (see figure 5.8). A decreasingtrend shows that the performance of the criminaljustice system is deteriorating and that improvedcapacities, resources and procedures are needed.The increasing trend recorded in Europe indicatesthat the region’s criminal justice systems have beenincreasingly efficient in dealing with homicides.This is no doubt also connected to the low levelsof homicides recorded in Europe. On the otherhand, although Asia is also characterized by lowhomicide rates, the conviction rate has graduallydeclined in that region. In the Americas, theincreasing trend recorded up until 2007 has sincereversed, as rising homicide trends have not beenparalleled by similar levels of convictions, meaningthat impunity related to homicide has grown inthe Americas in recent years. The specific reasonsfor such phenomena need further investigation,but they could be due to issues related to a lack, orinefficient use, of resources, insufficient capacitiesor inappropriate legislation.7%10.1Southern and Eastern Europe(8 countries)homicide and suspect rate have declined by almosthalf since 2003, while the rate of persons convicted126.0of homicide has declined by 30 per cent. This12.7means that the gap between homicides committedand convictions has narrowed, with the majority of0%2%homicide investigations leading to a conviction.96300Americas (4 countries)2003Conviction rate per 100 homicidesFig. 5.8: Homicide conviction rate, byregion (2003-2011)10%4%6%8%10%12%Percentage of all prisonersWƌŝƐŽŶ ƉŽƉƵůĂƟŽŶ ƉĞƌ ϭϬϬ͕ϬϬϬ ƉŽƉƵůĂƟŽŶPrisoners convicted of homicideƉĞƌ ϭϬϬ͕ϬϬϬ ƉŽƉƵůĂƟŽŶPrisoners convicted of homicideas percentage of all prisonersSource: UN-CTS.Prisoners sentenced for homicideAmong all the types of crime dealt with by thecriminal justice system, homicides tend to makeup only a marginal share of the total. In mostcountries, the share of persons convicted of homicide is usually well below 1 per cent of all thoseconvicted of crime. However, the combination ofthe relative levity of sentences for less seriouscrimes and the long duration of prison sentencesfor homicide offenders means that, at any givenpoint in time, homicide offenders can make up asignificant share of the total prison population.This share depends on a number of factors, such asthe overall rate of persons convicted of homicideand other crimes, the severity with which the crim-

THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE RESPONSEOTO HOMICIDEHomicide in prisonLess visible but no less problematic are cases of violent deaths among prisoners. In line with States’heightened duty to ensure and respect the right to life in custodial settings, international standards andUnited Nations human rights bodies call upon prison administrations to initiate and/or facilitateprompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all incidents of death in custody or shortly following release, including with independent forensic or post mortem examinations, as appropriate.a In spiteof this principle, relevant information is often scarce, but some indications emerge from available dataon deaths in prison settings. In many countries there is a substantial death rate per 100,000 prisoninmates (which includes both natural causes of death as well as those resulting from external causes),which is very high, especially considering the relatively young age structure of the prison population(see figure 5.10). Among external causes, rates of homicide appear to be a bigger problem in prisons inthe Americas (57 per 100,000 prisoners), than in Europe (2 per 100,000 prisoners), where suicideappears to be the main non-natural cause of d

criminal justice systems in terms of homicide cases solved by the police, persons arrested for and per-sons convicted of homicide. Bringing the perpetrators of homicide to justice and preventing impunity for those responsible for lethal violence is a core responsibility of the State. Indeed, there is international recognition1 that the State is required to provide judicial protection with .

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