New lab part of forensic turnaround

2012-07-17 19:34

Cape Town - A new forensics laboratory in Cape Town is part of the police's turnaround plan to increase convictions through clear-cut evidence, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Tuesday.

"What we are witnessing today is how modernised systems, coupled with the equipped human resources, can... contribute towards an improved turnaround time in terms of processing forensic case work," he said.

"Let this laboratory become a value-add in our efforts of fighting crime... This state-of-the art building must not become a white elephant."

The minister was speaking at the opening of the R600m lab in Plattekloof, now the fourth forensics facility in the country, which took six years to build.

The lab has been in operation since November, servicing the province, as well as the Northern Cape and parts of the Eastern Cape.

'Backlogs division'

Mthethwa said many had referred to the forensics division as the "backlogs division".

A backlog was any case which took more than 28 working days after arriving at the lab to be finalised.

These backlogs had drastically slowed down conviction of individuals by the courts in the past.

"But we have seen a positive turnaround strategy," Mthethwa said.

The labs had seen a 63% caseload increase in the past financial year. Backlogs had decreased by 30% within the same period.

He said government had no intention to privatise the laboratories, despite calls by some in the light of the backlogs.

Enhancing skills

"This decision is further informed by empirical research as well as our international counterparts, who concur with us that privatisation is not a viable option."

The minister said his strategy to boost the division was to acquire more skilled staff to offer an adequate service to all corners of the country.

For 2011/2012, R63m was set aside for enhancing skills within the division, with a further R35m earmarked for the current financial year.

Mthethwa was also set on developing a recognised forensics degree, through which graduates could be placed in the field with minimal in-house training if required.

The three other labs are in Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Pretoria. Police used the facilities to process evidence found at crime scenes to paint a picture of perpetrators and their modus operandi.

Just under 7 000 staff analysed specimens through ballistics, biology, chemistry, and other means.

Among the best in the world

According to divisional head Julius Phahlane, the new lab was among the best in the world.

"You will not find a lab of this nature anywhere in the world. We are leading and we are proud to say that," he said.

National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said the lab was an added weapon in fighting crimes against women and children.

She said that in the past year, over half of the cases processed by biology staff were for rape and murder.

"These alone show the vulnerability of the main category of victims, which happens to be women and children.

"The launch of this laboratory will go a long way in the eradication of crime against women and children... [and] incidents of substance abuse among our communities."

  • Squeegee - 2012-07-17 20:21

    We can but hope. I sincerely wish them the best. Lets get criminals off the street and into prisons. Lets also hope that the courts can catch up and then keep up.

      tw2066 - 2012-07-18 01:28

      Mytwitwa can start with a forensic lab report on how OUR money was used to build HIS wall without him noticing it?

  • Moagi Mohohlo - 2012-07-17 20:22

    Brilliant! I watch Medical Detectives on ETV and I always marveled at their rate of success. Dedicated Police Officers, individuals who don't give up until a case is resolved. They use their laboratories to also proof how wrong they were in arresting someone and got a conviction only to release them after years of incarceration! Now I hear we have our own equal-to-non lab. I hope our SAPS and NPA are dedicated and will stop only when a convincing conviction is achieved. You have the tool.

  • rob.bayliss.94 - 2012-07-17 20:28

    Here we go again with unbelievable and inconsistent comments. "According to divisional head Julius Phahlane, the new lab was among the best in the world. "You will not find a lab of this nature anywhere in the world. We are leading and we are proud to say that," he said." So which is it...amongst the best or the only one? Is anything said by these guts real or is it all hot air?

      tony.vanniekerk.35 - 2012-07-17 20:44

      His statement is totally correct. If something is amongst the best, it can still be the best of the lot. To be critically honest.

      alansmartSnr - 2012-07-17 22:04

      We might have the best quality lab in the world but it can only be as good as the scientsist that work there. From exsperience it would not be unfair that it would probably be manned and managed by a few sub-educted cadres and would turn out to be another white elephant...unless the corrupt guverment have it manned by experts.. but then again it might exspose some of their beloved cadres.. can't see this being of much help with hang-dick showerhead still running rnning this circus.

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