Lab over­sight must be rec­ti­fied

The Citizen (KZN) - - Opinion -

It is wor­ry­ing that the au­thor­i­ties in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem have not got around to get­ting the SA Po­lice Ser­vice (Saps) foren­sic lab­o­ra­to­ries cor­rectly cer­ti­fied. The lack of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that the work be­ing done in th­ese labs – rang­ing from DNA tests to as­sess­ments of blood al­co­hol lev­els in drunken driv­ing cases – is sub­stan­dard, but it does mean that, legally speak­ing, the work is open to chal­lenge in court.

It’s much the same as some­one be­ing able to drive a car, but not be­ing li­censed to do so.

Now, as it ap­pears from an on­go­ing rape case, le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers are chal­leng­ing DNA ev­i­dence pro­duced by the Saps labs, be­cause they are not cer­ti­fied with the South African Na­tional Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Sys­tem.

By al­low­ing foren­sic science to slip into the state in which it is ques­tioned, the po­lice and pros­e­cut­ing au­thor­i­ties are re­mov­ing a vi­tal tool from the ar­moury of in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

In many cases, a good foren­sic lab find­ing may be the dif­fer­ence be­tween con­vic­tion and ac­quit­tal for a guilty per­son.

It is time the sit­u­a­tion is cor­rected.

With SA’s ap­pallingly high crime rate, the last thing peo­ple need while try­ing to bring it down is to hand­i­cap the de­tec­tives.

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