Forensic backlogs reduced, but still too high

2016-04-06 22:02


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Cape Town – The severe national backlog for post-mortem, toxicology and drunk driving samples waiting to be processed at government forensic laboratories is being cleared, the department of health has said.

The post-mortem blood alcohol backlog for laboratories in Pretoria, Cape Town and Johannesburg dropped from 6 938 in 2014 to 3 155 from January to February 11 2016. 

This was according to a reply to a written question from IFP MP, Sibongile Nkomo.

The backlog has been blamed for having a knock-on effect on criminal trials which are delayed, sometimes for years, when crucial results that could make or break a case are still outstanding.

According the reply, Cape Town's laboratories showed the highest decrease – 65% in post-mortem toxicology results, from 3 527 cases on January 31 2014 to 1 222 still waiting to be done in January 2016.

Johannesburg decreased 63%, from 989 on January 31 2014 to 369. It initially spiked to a backlog of 2 837 cases by January 31 2015, but was reduced to 369 this year.

Toxicology backlog

The toxicology backlog for Pretoria was 6 023 on January 31 2014, 6 537 on January 31 2015, and 5 013 in January 2016 – a 17% reduction. 

Cape Town saw a backlog for these tests of  3 658 on January 31 2014, 3 406 on January 31 2015, and 2 878 by February 2016 – a reduction of 17%.

Johannesburg's backlog actually grew by 2% with 7 658 on January 31 2014, 8 007 on January 31 2015, and 7 843 to February 2016.

Drunk driving tests

Tests for drunk driving were moving faster in Pretoria but only after the backlog of 11 890 on January 31 2014 had spiked to 19 841 by January 31 2015. 

By January 2016 the backlog was down to 6 074 – a reduction of 49%.

Cape Town's testing for drunken driving backlog was 25 933 on January 31 2014, 12 856 on January 31 2015, and 2 360 in January 2016 – a reduction so far of 90%.

In Johannesburg, the backlog for drunk driving tests was 29 589 on January 31 2014, down to 26 117 on January 31 2015, and up again to 30 376 to the mid-February date – a 3% increase.

The department had put 70 unemployed people on a one-year internship to reduce forensic laboratories' manpower shortage.

Read more on:    parliament 2016

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