Police to employ more forensic analysts

2012-11-21 20:24
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa (Picture: Sapa)

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa (Picture: Sapa)

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Cape Town - Hundreds of additional forensic analysts will be employed within the current financial year, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Wednesday.

"One of the fundamental components of the criminal justice system is ensuring that evidence presented before a court of law is accurate, and can enable police to secure convictions," he said in written reply to a parliamentary question.

Central to the collection and analysis of such evidence, was ensuring that the SA Police Service forensic science laboratories were effectively capacitated and effective, he said.

In 2009/10, the SAPS forensic science laboratories received 207 660 entries and in 2010/11, the number increased by 26% to 260 826.

Increased confidence

The number of entries received in 2011/12 increased by an additional 23% to 320 729, and between 1 April and 30 September this year, 209 431 entries were received - a 67% increase in comparison to the same period the previous year.

The substantial increase in the number of exhibits submitted to the FSL since 1 April 2009 was evidence of the increased confidence investigating officers had in the ability of the forensic services to contribute to the investigation of crime and bring perpetrators to book, Mthethwa said.

"The increase is going to be addressed through the employment of [an] additional 800 forensic analysts within the current financial year. As police leadership, we are encouraged by the progress attained thus far."

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

Positive turn-around

The aggressive launch and execution of forensic awareness programmes in the previous financial year among frontline officers enhanced their understanding of what forensic services could do in supporting crime investigation to ultimately increase the conviction rate.

Over the past few years, there had been "unsatisfactory reports around how courts could not finalise cases on the court roll, including the reasons for postponement of cases in criminal courts and all these were attributed to the 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," Mthethwa said.

In a statement later, the Democratic Alliance's Dianne Kohler Barnard said the increase in cases sent to the forensic laboratories was a clear indication that crime "is up massively in South Africa", but equally that the SAPS needed to increase the number of forensic science laboratories.

Case backlog

Only four forensic science laboratories fell under SAPS. These labs had to deal with cases from all nine provinces.

"Nor can one discount the fact that much of the crime-related laboratory work goes to the utterly dysfunctional forensic chemistry laboratories that fall under the health ministry," she said.

While the SAPS had worked hard to reduce the backlog of cases over the past few years, decreasing it to just over 3 000, the tide seemed to have turned once again.

"It is past time that the minister focused on this division and ensure that the ministry plans for more forensic science laboratories to be established," Kohler Barnard said.

Read more on:    nathi mthethwa  |  police

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