OAG sees rise in drug cases and sex crimes in 2023

The statistical summary for the year 2023 sheds light on the operational dynamics of the Prosecution and Litigation Division of the Office of Attorney General. The Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) consistently dominated the caseload, contributing 96 percent of the cases.

Out of the total cases received, 48.7 percent of the cases were disposed, 2.8 percent were returned, 34 percent pending before the Court, and 14.5 percent still under review.

The highest number of cases originated from the capital with a total of 327 cases involving 631 defendants.

Among the 926 cases referred by RBP, the office handled 260 cases related to offenses ranging from homicide and battery to other sexual offenses.

Particularly, the office recorded a 34.1 percent increase in sexual offence cases, reaching a total of 110 cases.

53 percent concerned rape of a child aged 12 and above, 15 percent related to child molestation, and 14 percent cases of statutory rape. The remaining 18 percent were offenses such as rape, incest, sexual harassment, and marital rape.

The office observed a substantial surge in drug and substance abuse cases, totaling 425 compared to the previous year’s 135.

Illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (ITNDPS) constituted 83 percent of these cases, followed by 9 percent involving illicit trafficking of cannabis and its derivatives. The office reported 27 cases of substance abuse, 6 of illegal inhalant sale, and 2 of possession of cannabis.

Phuentsholing led with 39.6 percent of ITNDPS cases, followed by Thimphu at 27.9 percent, while other dzongkhags collectively accounted for 22 cases.

The office returned a total of 35 cases to RBP. This includes 26 cases of 2023, 7 cases of 2022 and one each in 2021 and 2020.

The office received judgments for 629 cases referred by the RBP.

Out of 451 trial cases referred and disposed, the office secured conviction for 446 cases, acquittal in 2 cases, and deferral of judgment in 3 cases. The remaining 13 cases were disposed by the court.

The office also dealt with 40 children in conflict with law (CICL).

There was a substantial decrease in the number of battery and burglary cases involving CICLs. Meanwhile, the office observed an increase in the number of illicit trafficking of cannabis and its derivatives and ITNDPS offences.

Overall, the office recorded a rise in cases from 659 cases involving 1,300 defendants in 2022 to 970 cases involving 1,692 defendants in 2023.

In 2023, compared to 2022, there was a 48.6 percent increase in cases from RBP. Additionally, the office observed a 14.8 percent increase in cases from the ACC and a 44.4 percent increase in cases from other agencies.

ACC accounted for 3 percent of the caseload with 31 cases and 140 defendants, an increase of 14.8 percent compared to 2022. However, 1 case was returned, 1 is under joint investigation, 15 are pending before the Courts, and 14 are under review.

The office received judgments for 18 cases referred by ACC. This includes 5 trials cases and 13 appeal cases. Out of 18 cases disposed by the court, a total of 12 cases were appealed, 5 cases by the office and 7 by the defendants.

Other agencies which include ministries, dzongkhags and thromdes collectively constituted 1 percent of the caseload, involving 13 cases and 21 defendants. The office saw a 44.4 percent rise compared to previous year.

The cases involve issues like risking protected species, illegal tiger skin trade, contract disputes, land encroachment, and civil restitution. Out of these, 1 case was returned, 2 disposed, 1 pending in court, and 9 under review.

In the year under review, the office received 7 arbitration cases. Out of the total cases received, 3 were returned to the referring agencies, from which 1 returned to the office as an appeal request.

Case status in numbers revealed that the office had 331 pending cases, 90 appealed and 157 is still under review. 652 cases have been closed, 28 case dropped and 17 were diverted.

The office restituted a total of Nu 10.284 million (mn) to the RGoB, Nu 21.459 mn to the victims as compensation, and Nu 28.297 mn as loan repayment to the financial institutions.

Further, 0.75 acres of land were compensated to the victims through enforcement process. The office organized auctions for properties seized in connection with crimes, and various substances have been transferred to the relevant agencies for destruction.

OAG has sent home two illegal immigrants to India and the Philippines, administratively penalized two individuals, and implemented diversion and rehabilitation initiatives in cases involving children.

Likewise, in advising the government during the year under review, the office rendered a total of 91 legal opinions on various subjects.

Furthermore, the Drafting Division digitized 98 national legislations and 28 international treaties and conventions.

The office drafted 2 rules and reviews BCSR 2023, digitized 126 laws which includes 57 national laws and 28 international treaties, and consolidation and translation of the Marriage Act.

Similar to many organizations, OAG experienced challenges due to attrition, resulting in 23 resignations and 13 staff members taking extraordinary leave. As a response, the office hired 64 new staff members to fill these gaps.

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