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Police beefs up forensic unit

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
The South African Police Service (SAPS) is boosting its forensic unit through the recruitment of 800 forensic analysts.

Posts for the new batch of analysts have already been advertised and the SAPS is busy processing the applications.

Currently, the country's four forensic science laboratories employ 841 forensic analysts.

The majority, 465, is based in Gauteng, 208 in the Western Cape, 98 in KwaZulu-Natal and 70 in the Eastern Cape.

Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa recently announced in Parliament that during the 2012/2013 financial year that ends in March, his department would beef up its forensic laboratories section to meet increased demand.

He was responding to a Parliamentary question on how many cases were sent to the SAPS forensic science laboratories since 2009.

In 2009 there were 207 660 entries received by the SAPS forensic science laboratories. In 2010/11 the number of entries received in- creased by 26 per cent to 260 826. The number of entries received in 2011/12 increased by 23 per cent to 320 729.

Between 1 April and 30 September 2012, the laboratories received 209 431 entries, which is a 67 per cent increase in comparison to the same period in the previous year.

Minister Mthethwa noted that over the past few years, there were disappointing reports that delays with forensic evidence had led to courts not being able to finalise cases. The delays were also the reason a number of cases were postponed.

“However we are now beginning to experience a positive turn-around strategy. What becomes important is to ensure that we sustain these best practices, continue to capacitate this division and ensure that it continues to become an additional arsenal in the fight against crime.”

He added that police leadership was encouraged by the progress made so far, noting there had been improved turn around times in the processing forensic case work.

The employment of forensic analysts is also part of the SAPS’s plan to achieve smarter policing and is in line with the process to revamp the criminal justice system.

Minister Mthethwa noted that to secure a conviction there had to be practical evidence because in a court of law, word of mouth did not necessarily guarantee a conviction.

It was vital that evidence presented to court was accurate to help police ensure speedy convictions, he added.