South Africa beefs up forensic services

22 November 2012

At least 800 forensic analysts are to be employed in the current financial year to beef up South Africa’s forensic science laboratories, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said in Cape Town on Wednesday.

He was responding to a Parliamentary question on how many cases were brought to the South African Police Service (SAPS) forensic science laboratories from 2009 and how many are still outstanding.

In 2009/10, 207 660 entries were received at the SAPS laboratories. In 2010/11 the number of entries received increased by 26% to 260 826.

“The number of entries received in 2011/12 increased by an additional 23% to 320 729,” Mthethwa said.

“Between 1 April and 30 September 2012, they received 209 431 entries, which is a 67% increase in comparison to the same period in the previous financial year.”

Increased confidence in forensic services

The substantial increase in the number of exhibits submitted to the laboratories is evidence of the increased confidence that the investigating officers have in the ability of the forensic services to contribute to the investigation of crime and bring perpetrators to book, according to Mthethwa.

“The increase in the number of cases presented to the forensic science laboratories will be addressed through the employment of additional 800 forensic analysts within the current financial year,” he said.

One of the fundamental components of the criminal justice system was ensuring that the evidence that is presented before a court of law is accurate and can enable police to secure convictions.

He said central to the collection and analysis of such evidence, is ensuring that the SAPS forensic science laboratories are effectively capacitated and effective.

Over the past few years, there have been unsatisfactory reports around how courts could not finalise cases on the court roll, including the reasons for postponement of cases in criminal courts – all were attributed to forensic delays.

“However, we are now beginning to experience a positive turn-around strategy. What becomes important is to ensure that we sustain these best practices, continue to capacitate this division and ensure that it continues to become an additional arsenal in the fight against crime,” he said.

“This progress can be attributed to the modernised systems, coupled with adequately equipped human capital which ultimately resulted in improved turn- around time in terms of processing forensic case work.”