Enumerate and Explain the Key Principles that Guide Effective Criminal Investigations.  How do these Principles Contribute to the Success of an Investigation?

Effective Criminal Investigations Key Principles by CPF Desk

CSS Solved Criminology Past Paper 2024 | Effective Criminal Investigations Key Principles

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Question Breakdown

Three main things are to be addressed in the answer, encompassing the key principles of criminal investigation, their explanation, and the role of these principles in contributing to the investigation’s success. In this question, the examiner has demanded the proper explanation of the principles of criminal investigation. To make one’s paper outstanding, one can add definitions of criminal investigation given by various scholars. Furthermore, an explanation of the contribution of principles of criminal investigation in making it successful is also a crucial component asked in this question. To explain this part, one can mention references of various scholars and examples.


1- Introduction

2- Defining Criminal Investigation

3- Key Principles of Criminal Investigation in Pakistan

  • ✓Neutrality and Objectivity
  • ✓Relevance  
  • ✓Independence
  • ✓Compliance with Law and Procedures
  • ✓Timeliness
  • ✓Competence and Professionalism
  • ✓Record and Preservation of Evidence 
  • ✓Investigative Report
  • ✓Presumption of Innocence
  • ✓Honesty and Confidentiality
  • ✓Regard and Sensitivity
  • ✓Use of Modern Technology
  • ✓ No Coercion
  • ✓No Pre-conclusion

4- Role of Principles of Criminal Investigation in Ensuring the Success of the Process

  • ✓Collection of Evidence
  • ✓Proper Documentation
  • ✓Identifying the Suspects

5- Critical Analysis of Criminal Investigation in Pakistan

6- Conclusion

Answer to the Question


According to Curzon, criminal investigation can be defined as “a legal process which aims at finding out the culprit and collecting evidence”. Criminal investigation did not exist until the King of England introduced two systems – Justice of Peace and Perish Constable – in the 13th century, which were valid until 1829. In Pakistan, according to Section 156 to 170 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, the SHO or an officer authorised by the SHO is empowered to conduct an investigation. Certain principles of criminal investigation guarantee legitimacy, transparency and moral behaviour amid the process. These fundamental principles assist in gathering proper evidence, safeguarding individual rights and ensuring justice.

Defining Criminal Investigation

The investigation is derived from the Latin word ‘investigatum, which means ‘track, footprints or following the footprints’. Criminal investigation is an art as well as a science of digging out the truth about the criminal activities of suspects. Section 4(L) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 (CrPC) defines criminal investigation as;

“All the proceedings conducted by the police officer for collecting evidence and digging out the truth.”

According to Pakistan Law Journal (PLJ) 2018, the duty of the investigating officer is to trace the real culprit and exonerate the innocent people by conducting a fair, just, and impartial criminal investigation.

Key Principles of Criminal Investigation in Pakistan

After committing the crime, registering the First Information Report (FIR), and reaching the crime scene, the investigating officer must adhere to certain principles in order to reach the culprit.

Principles of Criminal Procedure
  • Neutrality and Objectivity

All the evidence and collected information should be analysed objectively and without any biases to maximise the credibility of criminal investigations. According to Howard Becker’s labelling theory, prejudices and labels by society can adversely impact the criminal justice process. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure impartiality and objectivity to unveil the truth.

  • Relevance

Things that are not relevant to the crime are excluded. On the other hand, effective and clear communication is ensured to collect the proper evidence and coordinate the tasks among the members.

  •  Independence

While conducting an investigation, the investigating officer should not be influenced by any foreign actor; rather, he ought to be independent in his conduct and decisions.

  • Compliance with Law and Procedures

The investigating officer should carry out the procedures while abiding by the law to ensure justice and reach the actual culprit.

  • Timeliness

Furthermore, the investigating officer should not procrastinate and try to link the information within time because if justice is delayed, justice is denied. If everything is not done in a timely manner, then the case might become irrelevant.

  • Competence and Professionalism

The investigating officer should be well-trained, well-equipped, well-versed, and professional in his conduct. In addition, the officer should not possess any preconceived notions; however, one should have effective interviewing and interrogation skills to collect information from convicts, victims, and witnesses without coercion. For instance, the Reid Technique is prominently used for the interrogation of unwilling victims and suspects through Polygraphic tests.   

  • Record and Preservation of Evidence

Amid the investigation, collecting evidence and documenting them with thoroughness and diligence is paramount. It ought to be done so that no stone is left unturned and all the necessary procedures are ensured. Thorough documentation of all the information relevant to the crime is crucial to prevent the acquittal of the guilty and wrong verdicts. The chain of custody refers to the preservation of the integrity of the evidence for the legal procedures by accounting for it multiple times in order to minimise corruption. During criminal investigations, maintaining a clear and documented chain of custody for all evidence is paramount.

  • Investigative Report

The investigation report ought to be stable, clear, concise and relevant.

  • Presumption of Innocence

As introduced by Cesare Beccaria, the founding father of legal and administrative criminology, the accused should be considered innocent until one is proven guilty by a competent trial court. According to Beccaria, criminology should seek the “greatest good for the greatest number of people”. Furthermore, fair trials ought to be conducted, and the rights of the accused should be ensured.

  • Honesty and Confidentiality

During a criminal investigation, following morals and ethics is crucial, particularly honesty and confidentiality. Despite this, respecting and safeguarding individuals’ rights is paramount, whether one is a suspect, victim, or witness. John Stuart Mill’s theory of Ethical Relativism accentuates the significance of moral principles in guiding actions, delineating the crucial role of ethical conduct in investigations. 

  • Regard and Sensitivity

In the 17th century, Thomas Aquinas delineated that the ‘accused’ and ‘convicted’ were treated alike due to the presumption of guilt. However, legal reformists Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham accentuated the importance of rights of the accused as well as fair investigation process until the accused is proven guilty. One of the key principles of criminal investigation is to regard and be sensitive towards not only the victims and witnesses but also to suspects.

  • Use of Modern Technology

Modern technology and forensic science are crucial for criminal investigations as they assist in the proper collection of information and analysis. For instance, DNA evidence was used in the O.J. Simpson case, which accentuated the need for forensic science in criminal investigations. Nonetheless, proper handling, explanation, and analysis of scientific evidence are considerable challenges. According to Gary Becker’s Rational Choice Theory, advanced technology can help in mitigating and deterring crime as it can increase the perceived risk of detection and apprehension.

  • Non-Coercion

Amid criminal investigations, the suspects, victims and witnesses ought to be interviewed without use of force. Proper interrogation strategies will help in gathering valuable information from the involved parties. 

  • No Pre-conclusion

The officers or authorities investigating the crime should not reach a pre-conclusion rather proper investigation should be carried out. There can be various invisible and underlying causes of the crime as indicated by the Sociological and Psychological School of Criminology. Moreover, renowned criminologists like Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham have condemned self-conclusions and presumption of guilt. Instead, they advocated the conduct of free trials and promoted the rights of the accused.

Role of Principles of Criminal Investigation in Ensuring the Success of the Process

Following the principles of criminal investigation helps in ensuring the success of the process through proper collection of evidence and documentation thus, reaching the culprit.

Role and Principles of Criminal Investigation
  • Collection of Evidence

Through criminal investigations, all the physical evidence is completely handled and acquired. No unauthorized person is involved or allowed in crime zone. All the witnesses are intelligently interviewed and all the suspects are effectively interrogated. The Section 157 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 (CrPC) delineates that the evidence should be collected from the crime site like blood stained earth, clothes and weapon of offence etc.

  • Proper Documentation

Due to the principles of criminal investigation, evidence is properly documented through note taking, ascertaining of facts and analyzing the circumstances around the crime scene. Therefore, all the documentations are completely, accurately and comprehensively done.

  • Identifying the Suspects

The collection of evidence and proper documentation assists the investigating officers in reaching the actual culprit. All the leads are developed and chained together in order to identify the suspect.

Critical Analysis of Criminal Investigation in Pakistan

Various laws of Pakistan, including the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 (CrPC) and the 1973 Constitution, explain the procedures and requirements of criminal investigation. However, the process is flawed and defective in Pakistan due to the lack of training and professionalism of the investigating officers. Furthermore, biasness, fake encounters, extrajudicial killings, planted evidence, forceful confession and torture are common problems of criminal investigation in Pakistan. Despite this, the rights of the accused as well as victims are violated in Pakistan because the process is prone to corruption. This has resulted in the dark figures of crime as well as the trust deficit among people.


In a nutshell, a criminal investigation is a process of inspection of the crime and its site through the collection and documentation of evidence. The fundamental principles of criminal investigation include presumption of innocence, impartiality, thorough documentation, moral conduct, utilising advanced technology and chain of custody, etc. These principles help ensure fairness and justice in the process.  Furthermore, proper documentation and collection of evidence, as well as linking the available information, assists in reaching the actual culprit. Nonetheless, the criminal investigation process faces several challenges in Pakistan amid its conduct due to outdated frameworks and the lack of professionalism of investigating officers.

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