'No backlogs at forensic laboratories' - SAPS

2018-10-16 15:56
A forensics expert examines a crime scene. (Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

A forensics expert examines a crime scene. (Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

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While there may be cases of rape and murder that are sometimes struck from court rolls because police are unable to provide crucial DNA results on time, police say it is not due to a backlog at their forensic science laboratories.

"There is no such thing as backlogs at forensic laboratories," national SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo told News24 on Tuesday.

Naidoo said police had an agreement with the National Prosecuting Authority to ensure that forensic evidence for high profile cases was prioritised and that forensic results were returned well in time.

"Unless there are very complicated cases, but of course there is a strategy to overcome that," he said.

Naidoo said the normal turnaround time for the police was 25 days, but added that there was also a 10% deviation in achieving the turnaround time.

READ: Forensic delays stall probes, police tell Moerane Commission

"There's always a 10% deviation. No country in the world can achieve 100% on that. If you look at five to 10 years ago compared to now, we are doing exceptionally well," he said.

Naidoo said he believed that cases which were normally struck off the roll were not necessarily because of drastic delays in forensic results.

"When there are cases that demand intense analysis and investigations, it will take longer than the turnaround time," he said.

Meanwhile, owner of the International Law Enforcement Institute and former SAPS drug unit commander, Lobo das Neves, said the delays in obtaining DNA results for cases in South Africa were not "normal".

"There should be good co-operation between the detective service, forensic science laboratories and the courts to make sure that the evidence is presented to court timeously," he said.

'Great challenges'

Das Neves said delays in obtaining forensic evidence were, however, a "long-standing problem" in South Africa.

"There are great challenges in obtaining timeous forensic reports," he said.

"I have intimate contacts with international law enforcement officials and the turnaround time with DNA evidence in the US, for instance, it's days. They will give you DNA within days, and in South Africa it's sometimes within years."

Das Neves said more needed to be done to ensure that results were speedily obtained.

He added that he was currently involved in a criminal investigation, where they had been struggling for more than a year just to get forensic scientists to reconstruct a crime scene.

It was also one of the reasons he felt that the forensic science laboratory was not functioning "even close to international standards".

There have been various cases that have been reportedly struck off the roll pending results from forensic laboratories.

One of the cases includes that of Popi Qwabe and Bongeka Phungula who were murdered and raped on May 12, 2017 in Soweto.

Qwabe, 24, was found dead near Naledi High School. She had been shot and left for dead. Less than 24 hours later, her close friend Phungula, 28, was also found dead in Tladi.

The suspects were arrested in connection with the killings, but the case was then struck off the roll in February because DNA results were still pending.

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