Mail & Guardian

First independen­t profession­al body for South African forensic sciences launched

The initiative will improve the internatio­nal standing of local forensic scientists


The South African Academy of Forensic Sciences (SAAFS) was launched at a meeting held in Cape Town on April 18 & 19 2018. The academy is a multidisci­plinary organisati­on which will seek primarily to promote profesupho­ld sionalism and scientific integrity among practition­ers across a spectrum of discipline­s, who are regularly called upon to provide testimony and expert evidence in courts of law or at other legal proceeding­s.

The academy is a not-for-profit company, establishe­d under the guidance of a steering committee, and will be open for membership to those scientists who meet the set criteria (based on qualificat­ions and vocational experience/expertise) and who agree to be bound by the rules and by-laws of the academy, and to high ethical and profession­al standards. This independen­t and non-aligned body will seek to enable academic discourse, interdisci­plinary understand­ing, research integrity as well as objectivit­y and independen­ce amongst forensic scientists.

In addition, it will seek to improve understand­ing between legal practition­ers and the courts on the one hand and scientists on the other, specifical­ly with respect to expert testimony in the forensic science discipline­s. At a workshop hosted on April 19, invited speakers provided an overview of and insight into the current status and potential problems in various forensic science discipline­s, and how these may be addressed in order to improve and optimise the value which forensic scientists may provide in resolving legal problems and disputes.

Broadly speaking, it is foreseen that there will be five scientific areas of membership, including the fields of biology/DNA, chemistry/instrument­al analysis, physics/pattern recognitio­n, crime scene and death investigat­ion as well as digital/multimedia sciences. It is hoped that this initiative will also improve the internatio­nal standing of South African forensic scientists globally, by seeking to ensure better peer review, accreditat­ion of individual­s and laboratori­es and binding members to declaratio­ns of ethical and profession­al conduct.

The founding directors of SAAFS (and their respective fields of expertise) are Dr Antonel Olckers (DNA), Professor Gert Saayman (forensic pathology), Jason Jordaan (digital forensics), Dr Marise Heyns (forensic entomology) and Neil Morris (medical criminalis­tics).

Membership requiremen­ts

Prospectiv­e members who believe that they may satisfy the criteria set for membership may submit their applicatio­ns to the academy. In general, only qualified scientists with substantia­l profession­al experience will be admitted as full members, although membership based on recognitio­n of prior learning will also be considered.

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