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New forensic lab desperately needed

The fight against crime in SA has been greatly hamstrung by a large — and growing — backlog in the processing of forensic evidence.

The application of science to criminal investigations often plays a critical role in proving guilt or innocence in cases ranging from motor vehicle theft and fraud to murder and rape.

But such evidence needs to be processed proficiently and speedily.

Over the past few decades, the capacity of the police forensic laboratories has lagged alarmingly.

Whereas many other countries have seen cold cases solved decades after the event thanks to the progress made in testing DNA, in SA cases have fallen off the roll or even been permanently withdrawn because of unreasonable delays that occurred at the SAPS forensic laboratories.

Failure to maintain equipment, shortages of chemicals and loss of skilled staff have all played a role but ultimately the dire situation is a result of poor planning and management by the SAPS.

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