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).
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.