Lab oversight must be rectified
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.