“Why we cannot win the war on crime? Inefficient support systems such as the FSC,” says Naparima MP, Rodney Charles.
Today we were shocked but not surprised by the Commissioner of Police’s statements that it could take as many as six years to get the results of ballistic testing on the bullets that killed teenager Naomi Nelson and two others in Carenage last month.
This is a serious blow to the families of those killed due to gun violence who are awaiting justice or closure.
While in Singapore, forensic laboratories achieved accreditation by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) under the ASCLD/LAB Legacy Program in June 1996, ours appears to be a nightmare from the 19th century. All laboratories in Singapore are equipped with basic tools and storage to actively get the job done efficiently. Each lab is always prepared with more than one pathologist on duty in a safe environment suited to conduct post mortem tests.
In TT, we have a Forensic Science Centre with a never ending list of problems; lack of ventilation, improper storage for chemicals, inadequate storage for human remains and tissue samples, insufficient post mortem room furniture and fittings and one lone pathologist to conduct the mountain of autopsies that have to be conducted at any given time.
Whilst Minister Young says he has the battle of crime under control, the facts speak for itself.
This incompetent PNM administration needs to take decisive measures to ensure that our Forensic Science Centre is brought up to global benchmarks in order for it to be internationally accredited.
According to newspaper reports, “in 2010, a survey of the 50 US states of forensic testing across a range of disciplines found that ballistics testing averaged 136 days across 34 laboratories that responded. By any measure, a six-year lag from receipt of evidence to reporting results points to dangerous levels of under-staffing.”
This PNM regime continuously brings legislation, unmindful of the worsening bottlenecks that they are producing at crucial offices such as the Forensic Science Centre and the DPP’s office.
The Forensic Science Centre is a key body in the criminal justice system, but it is overwhelmed, it lacks space, and operates with very limited resources—both human and material. For such a crucial body, it is the source of a litany of complaints, most of which have fallen on deaf ears under this inept PNM Government. The conditions under which these professionals are expected to perform are totally unacceptable.
TT needs to focus on bringing our standards up to first world status, like Singapore’s. With the increasing murder rate, the FSC will only become more inundated. Our FSC, being the sole provider of traditional forensic laboratory services for TT, should at least be able to perform basic forensic analysis in a timely manner.