Faster forensics, quicker prosecutions

13 October 2010

The South African Police Service’s Forensic Science Laboratories have made a significant dent in their backlog, leading to more efficient prosecution and conviction of criminals in the country.

Addressing journalists in Pretoria on Tuesday, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the backlog of cases being handled by the Forensic Science Laboratories had decreased by 19% between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010.

The backlog in ballistics had decreased by 39%, in biology investigation by 33%, and in questioned documents by 21%.

Mthethwa attributed the success to the turnaround strategy that was implemented in forensics.

The laboratories play a critical role in the prosecution and conviction of criminals. However, most of them were not functioning optimally. Court cases, depending on forensic evidence, were being delayed, lost or dropped.

International experts have been assisting the South African Police Service in identifying the causes of the backlogs, and have developed remedial steps to resolve them.

Since February this year, an overhaul of human resources and skills, and upgrading of equipment, was undertaken to improve capacity.

“We are pleased with this progress, while also mindful that the current functioning of the Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL) is far from ideal,” Mthethwa said. “We shall continue to strive to ensure that we transform the FSL into a world-class unit.”

Source: BuaNews