National forensic laboratory effective resource in crime fighting
Contact: Darnley Lebourne
Monday, February 7, 2011 – The Forensic Science Laboratory was officially opened by Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy during a ceremony on December 21, 2009. The facility actually became operational on February 1st, 2010.
The commissioning of the Forensic Science Laboratory at the beginning of 2010 was a timely addition to the island’s crime fighting machinery. The Laboratory is committed to providing the highest quality scientific analysis to the criminal justice system. This quality is translated into accurate, complete, and timely analysis. The laboratory operations are governed by a well-defined set of international forensic science standards and controls for analysts to follow.
The methods used in the forensic lab are based on sound scientific principles and each case is approached in an objective, scientific manner with a high degree of integrity. The forensic lab has a responsibility to perform services in a manner responsive to the demands of its stakeholders (the police, the prosecution, the victim, the suspect and society).
The Forensic Lab has worked on a number of cases with successful outcomes since operations began in February 2010.
The Facility is currently organised into six (6) units which provide the vehicles for execution of the respective services provided by the Laboratory. These units are listed below as follows:
1. Chemistry Unit
2. Toxicology Unit
3. Biology Unit
4. Trace Evidence Unit
5. DNA Testing Unit
6. Crime Scene Support & Training
The current Government has to date invested almost EC $4. Million Dollars in bringing the Forensic Laboratory up to international standards. This investment was necessary to enable the institution to meet the compliment of services, which is expected of such a facility. This amount went towards covering completion and modifications to the infrastructure in keeping with adjustments in design and procurement of specialized equipment and furniture for the facility.
Otherwise under this current Administration the staffing structure was complemented to ensure that sufficient trained staff was available to implement the work programme set out for the laboratory. A DNA consultant was contracted to train the staff in DNA testing/analysis and to serve as a technical leader for the DNA lab. The consultant as part of her terms of reference also prepared the necessary procedures manuals for the smooth functioning of the DNA laboratory.
Government intends to continue the employment arrangement with the DNA Consultant, to assist the laboratory in preparing for its audit by the relevant body and serving as an external technical leader.
It is expected that once the DNA Lab passes the audit, then it can begin working towards gaining accreditation. Accreditation is an ongoing process, which can take years to achieve and has to be maintained once it is obtained.
Additionally Government intends to continue a recruitment drive to ensure that the laboratory has its full compliment of man power to function at its optimum.
The Laboratory through funding made available by the Government intends to purchase a Forensic Laboratory information management system to ensure the smooth operation of the Facility, this integrated system covers evidence handling and management and completely manages the life cycle of and investigation maintaining evidence integrity and control. Three other pieces of specialized equipment has been earmarked for purchase:-
1. An evidence Investigator – to be used for toxicology – i.e. testing of drugs in bodily fluids etc.
2. Genetic Analyzer; and
3. Thermal Cycler.
The Government of Saint Lucia recognizes the Forensic Lab as a vital component/resource in the overall crime fighting effort. Government is therefore fully committed to facilitating the process of consolidation and growth of the Laboratory. This would include attaining the ultimate goal of accreditation.
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