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Thursday 21 November 2019
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Editorial

Size is not all

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

ACTING DIRECTOR of the Forensic Science Centre Derrick Sankar has disclosed the new centre planned for Mt Hope will be six times the current centre in St James.

While we are heartened that plans to bolster the State’s capacity in this regard are at last afoot, we take careful note of assurances given that an increased level of training is occurring concomitant with the expansion of the scale of operations of the centre.

When it comes to criminal justice reform, while there is a clear need for increased capacity, this must be balanced by considerations of quality. Size is not all that matters.

Appearing before a special Parliament committee, Sankar disclosed the new centre is projected to be six times the size of the St James centre at 6,000 square feet. While the land earmarked for the new facility is reportedly under litigation, he said the centre was not waiting on the new location but had initiated a training project with 12 police officers on ballistics. Meanwhile, for the biological section all positions had been filled.

“We are not awaiting the new forensic science centre but we are putting in measures to attack the backlog head-on,” he said.

Sankar noted the backlog of ballistic reports. He said the centre would prioritise based on needs and requests for fast-tracking, such as those before the court, those involving witnesses in custody or a police shooting involving a number of firearms being taken out of service. “It may take four hours, it may take days.”

In light of the infamously long waiting times people have had to endure from Forensics, four hours to days seems, to our mind, an optimistic projection. Let us hope all of the changes coming on stream will make the system as efficient as it should be.

All of the plans for a new ultra-modern facility, which is meant to work in tandem with new DNA facilities, should be carefully designed to serve the best interest of stakeholders. This means building capacity to handle the backlog while also catering to the overall needs of the criminal justice system.

In this regard, it’s a good time to ask about the rationale for the Forensic Science Centre. Can it be repurposed to serve both its traditional functions and to act as a holistic tool? For instance, can it also be geared towards the generation of data, the conducting of research and the identification of factors that lead to high levels of morbidity?

Next month will mark exactly 36 years since the current centre began its formal operations. Given its role in providing impartial, reliable and efficient forensic services to the State, its reform should not be limited to questions of scale and efficiency but also to measures to guarantee its independence.

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