Excavating a grave site: Anthropological or forensic crime scene?

April 24th, 2015

A skeleton appearing in a grave.

Following the recent discovery of mass graves on Glenroy farm in Dududu (KZN) some months ago, the question arose as to whether the scene should be handled as a forensic (crime scene) or anthropological/archaeological case.

While a commission of inquiry has been established, it is being treated as forensic case in the first instance until otherwise determined and as such currently falls under the jurisdiction of the SAPS forensics unit while they conduct their preliminary investigations.

But what exactly is the difference between a forensic and an anthropological/archaeological case when investigating human remains?

In a forensic case the responsibility for the investigation of deaths due to unnatural causes lies with the Forensic Pathology Service in the province where the incident occurred and under the Inquests Act (Act 58 of 1959), this Service makes provision for the rendering of medico-legal investigation of the cause of death and serves the judicial process.

Up until 2006 this function was performed by, and fell under, the SAPS. As stipulated by the National Health Act (Act 61 of 2003), the operational management of the medico-legal laboratory facilities was subsequently transferred to the different provincial Departments of Health.

In an anthropological case, jurisdiction over inadvertently discovered human remains is governed by the National Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999) which stipulates that all discoveries of human remains should be reported to the local SAPS and the relevant Heritage Resources Agency.

Human remains identified by the Act, or proclaimed by the minister of Arts and Culture, should be reported to the South African Heritage Resources Agency Burial Grounds and Graves Unit. Jurisdiction, that is, whether the remains are forensic in nature or of heritage value, and whether the cause of death was non-natural and judicially relevant, is then assigned after consultation between officials.

As a general rule, although specified exceptions to this are indicated in the National Heritage Resources Act, human remains older than 60 years are not forensic, and remains older than 100 years are considered to be archaeological.

The National Heritage Resources Act also identifies categories of human remains, such as Victims of Conflict (referring to victims of the pre-1994 political violence in South Africa), which are classified as human rights abuses and deserving of special investigation and commemoration.

What is forensic anthropology?

Forensic anthropology is a specialist field that deals with the evidence that can be collected from human remains – both hard tissue in the form of dry bones and soft tissue in the form of dried flesh from dried up or mummified bodies.

A forensic anthropologist has detailed knowledge of anatomy, particularly the anatomy of the human skeleton, since the bones are usually all that remains when a forensic anthropologist is called in to identify a body.

What is a forensic anthropologist able to discern in respect of discovered remains that will aid the investigation?

Forensic anthropologists are able to reconstruct information surrounding the events that lead to the preservation of the discovered remains and call this the study of ‘taphonomy’, which includes the evidence of death, and the accumulation and preservation of bones over time.

Forensic anthropologists speak of four taphonomic periods in relation to a dead individual:

  • the ante-mortem period, which covers the whole of the time before the death of the person
  • the peri-mortem period, which is around the time of death
  • the post-mortem period which includes the time between death and discovery
  • the post-recovery period which includes the process of recovery, analysis and storage of the bony evidence.

Each period provides different contexts for enquiry. During the ante-mortem period (before death), the skeleton is living and records its own details of growth and development.

These can be used to develop a biological profile of the individual and help in securing identification.

The peri-mortem period is obviously important because it includes the events around the death and the cause of death.

However, the post-mortem period is important as well because it gives the time context of the crime by revealing information about the post-mortem interval (PMI). Each and every event after the discovery needs to be recorded as part of the ‘chain of custody’ so that there are no questions about the data when the case is discussed in court.

How can forensic anthropologists estimate sex and age?

By examining the skeletal remains, an anthropologist can estimate whether they are from a male or female.

A skeleton’s overall size and sturdiness give some clues. Within the same population, males tend to have larger, more robust bones and joint surfaces, and more bone development at muscle attachment sites.

Pelvic differences between males and females.

However, the pelvis is the best sex-related skeletal indicator, because of distinct features adapted for childbearing.

The skull also has features that can indicate sex, though slightly less reliably.

Male skull

Female skull

Determining how old a person was when they died is much more difficult than estimating their sex. The estimation of age at death involves observing morphological changes (changes in structure) in the skeletal remains and comparing it to what is known about chronological changes (changes that happen as we get older) that occur in the skeleton.

SOURCES

Friedling, J. (2012). What the bones can tell us. QUEST, 8(2). Academy of Science for South Africa.

Groen,W.J.M.,  Márquez-Grant, N., Janaway, R. (2015). Forensic Archaeology: A Global Perspective. Wiley-Blackwell.

Morris, A. (2012). What is forensic anthropology? QUEST, 8(2). Academy of Science for South Africa.

Dust Samples Traced Using Fungal DNA

April 20th, 2015

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Colorado, Boulder, have developed a statistical model that allows them to tell where a dust sample came from within the continental United States based on the DNA of fungi found in the sample.

Using the fungi observed in a dust sample collected in Raleigh, NC (blue point), the model predicts that the sample is most likely to have originated near Columbia, SC (red point). The error in this prediction, 138.7 miles, is close to the algorithm's median prediction error. Beyond a single "pin-in-a-map" prediction, the shaded regions capture areas of the U.S. for which the sample is likely to have originated with 90%, 75%, and 50% probability.

The primary goal of the research was to develop a new forensic biology tool for law enforcement or archeologists. “But it may also give us a greater understanding of the invisible ecosystems of microbial life that we know are all around us, but that we don’t fully comprehend,” says Neal Grantham, a Ph.D. student in statistics at NC State and lead author of a paper on the work.

The researchers developed the model using data from the Wild Life of Our Homes citizen science project conducted by the Your Wild Life lab based at NC State. The project collected dust samples from approximately 1,000 homes across the continental U.S., including samples from 47 of the 48 contiguous states.

The goal of that project was to test the dust samples for DNA to identify the microbial species present in and around our homes. One of the things the project found was that the types of fungus — or fungal taxa — varied widely from region to region.

“Based on that finding, we wanted to determine if you could predict where a dust sample came from based on the fungi present in the sample, and — most of the time — we can,” Grantham says.

The researchers developed a model that analyzed the fungal taxa present in a dust sample and predicted where the sample came from. About five percent of the time, the model’s predictions were within 35 miles of the correct sampling site. Those were the most accurate predictions. The worst five percent were off by at least 645 miles. The model’s median prediction error was 143 miles. However, the research team is already working to make the model more accurate by developing more advanced algorithms.

“The work we’ve done so far was to determine whether this concept was viable,” Grantham says. “Now that we know it is viable, we’re developing statistical methods that are better suited to the problem.

“Ultimately, we want to have an online tool for law enforcement to run the results of dust samples taken from a piece of clothing, a body, or a vehicle, and get information on where the clothing, body, or vehicle has been,” Grantham says.

SOURCE: Forensic Magazine – 16 April 2015

Forensic Science and Criminal Justice online course

April 13th, 2015

Learn how police use science in criminal investigations and its role in the criminal justice system with this free online course being offered through FutureLearn.com by the University of Leicester.

Starting date: 13th of April 2015
Duration of course: 6-weeks
To register: Please visit https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/forensic-crim-justice

About the course

Over the past two decades, the criminal justice system has been dramatically affected by technological advances in scientific contributions to the law. The most influential developments have been in the area of DNA profiling, and its forensic applications for both identifying perpetrators and exonerating the innocent.

Although there have been some extraordinary victories for the forensic science community in recent years, there has also been scepticism about the infallibility of some forensic science practices, and the interpretation of physical evidence in the courtroom.

This free online course will begin by introducing you to the historical context of forensic science and how science is used by the police during criminal investigations.

You will then explore some of the implications that these forensic techniques have on the criminal justice system, such as controversies surrounding biometric databases, the portrayal of forensic science in popular media (“the CSI effect”), and how forensic science is used in the courtroom.

Finally, you will consider what the future of forensic science looks like and where the discipline may be heading in the years to come.

Requirements

No prior qualifications in forensic science or other disciplines are required. Students should have an interest in how science assists police investigations, and how forensic science impacts on the criminal justice system.

Angels’ Care Rape Crisis Centre

March 30th, 2015

The DNA Project is very pleased and fortunate to be a beneficiary of Blow the Whistle and thanks to their amazing and generous contribution of funds raised through the sale of their whistles, Vanessa has chosen to donate a portion of this year’s proceeds to help support the establishment and equipping of a new rape crisis centre in Howick, KZN.

The Angels’ Care Rape Crisis Centre, which is currently under construction, is being spearheaded by one of our Directors, Carolyn Hancock, and aims to assist child victims of sexual abuse from informal settlements around the uMngeni municipal area.

The Crisis Centre will provide access to all the necessary social, medical and legal services to ensure that a child not only receives care and timely assistance in a single location, but through medical and psycho-social healing, it will restore dignity to these children and provide a mechanism whereby a case can be followed through to the point where the perpetrator is more likely to be identified and ultimately convicted.

Carolyn explains that although there are many reasons that child rape incidents go unreported, one of the primary reasons is the fact that many survivors, particularly children, lack access to services and support. In the cases where children do have access, a proper statement is often not obtained from the victim, and crucial evidence is not collected timeously. As a result of this, possible convictions of child rapists often fall through leading to the crime going unpunished; which is where the Crisis Centre will step in to help.

She is hopeful that in the same way as the government has set up Thutuzela Centres in certain hospitals nationwide that provide a holistic service to victims of sexual abuse, the rape crisis centre at Angels’ Care Centre could be the first of many centres operated by South African non-profit organisations that have good working relationships with all the relevant governmental stakeholders. Such centres could not only monitor levels of abuse in more rural communities, but also ensure that vital forensic evidence is actually collected and used to ensure the identification and conviction of offenders, and bring about emotional healing to survivors.

In addition to providing much needed equipment, The DNA Project will also run a track and trace programme which will monitor the progress of each case received from date of collection of the DNA evidence to its presentation in court; the purpose of which will be to ensure that evidence collected results in convictions, and if not, to identify problem areas as to why cases do not make it to court.

Hand-in-hand with this project is a research project which will look into more effective DNA evidence collection methods in relation to children, which historically have a very low yield rate.

The building, which will likely be completed this week (1 April), will consist of a reception area, a consulting room for the SAPS/NPA, a consulting room for the social worker/counsellor, a medical examination room, bathroom facilities and even a bedroom where the children may rest if needed.

The Angels’ Care Centre itself is only situated a few metres away from a government clinic and directly opposite the Howick SAPS Station and works closely with the SAPS, Department of Health, Department of Social Development and the Department of Justice/NPA.

The Crisis Centre is aiming to officially open its doors on 1 July of this year.

To learn more about the Angels’ Care Centre, please visit their website www.angelscare.co.za or follow them on Facebook www.facebook.com/angelscarecentre.

We wish to extend a very big thank you to everyone who has supported the Blow the Whistle campaign this year and for helping to aid us in supporting this inspiring initiative.

Forensic DNA Regulations in Place

March 18th, 2015

SAPS demonstrating the taking of a buccal swab at the 3rd National Forensic Services Conference 2015

Regulations outlining how the South African Police Service (SAPS) will be allowed to take DNA samples from suspects have been published in Government Gazette 38561.

The Forensic DNA Regulations were published for comment in October 2010.

They were drawn up in terms of section 6 of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act of 2013.

The act promotes the use of DNA in crime fighting efforts and regulates how this is to occur taking constitutional principles into account.

It calls for the setting up of a national forensic DNA database.

The act also allows for forensic DNA profiles to be used in crime investigation and court proceedings.

The regulations focus on, inter alia:

•    The taking of a DNA sample;
•    The keeping of records in respect of collected buccal and crime scene samples;
•    Samples taken from persons for investigative purposes;
•    Samples collected by the independent police investigative directorate;
•    Preservation and timely transfer of collected samples to the Forensic Science Laboratory;
•    Conducting of comparative searches;
•    Communication of forensic DNA findings and related information;
•    DNA examinations conducted at the Forensic Science Laboratories;
•    Request for access to information stored on the NFDD;
•    Follow-up of forensic investigative leads;
•    Destruction of DNA reference samples and buccal samples;
•    Notification of court findings;
•    Removal of forensic DNA profiles from the NFDD;
•    Protocols and training relating to familial searches;
•    Complaints to the Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board;
•    Reports; and
•    Information technology infrastructure and systems.

Requests for removal of DNA profiles must be accompanied by police clearance certificates confirming that the applicant has no criminal record.

The regulations are now in force.

Click HERE to view the Government Notice outlining the regulations published in Government Gazette 38561.

SOURCE: SabinetLaw, 16 March 2015

6 cases that changed crime analysis

March 14th, 2015

The following infographic by Portland State University takes a look at how crime analysis has changed for the better since 1784:

(click on image to enlarge)

SOURCE: http://online.ccj.pdx.edu/resources/infographics/6-cases-that-changed-crime-analysis-infographic/

CREDIT: Portland State University Online Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice

SAPS Forensic Services: Available Posts – March 2015

March 1st, 2015

New posts within the South African Police Service (SAPS) Forensic Services Division, under the SAPS Act (employment as a police official), have been added to their website and are currently being advertised for March 2015 – http://www.saps.gov.za/careers/careers.php.

Please Note: Police officials are employed in terms of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act No 68 of 1995).

CLOSING DATE for all applications: 13 March 2015

POLICE ACT POSTS

Click here to read the application process in terms of the SAPS Act.

Please download the full advertisement for all the new SAPS Act posts, including full requirements, core responsibilities, salary level and how to apply (PDF).

Download the official application form from the SAPS website.

The following posts are available:

1. Post: Colonel
Section Commander: Investigative Support
Section: Investigative Psychology
Component: Criminal Record & Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 241/2014)

2. Post: Major
Commander: Permits and Licences: Explosives Control
Section: Explosives
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: National Office: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 242/2014)

3. Post: Major
Commander: Technical Support: Bomb Disposal
Section: Explosives
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: National Office: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 243/2014)

4. Post: Major
Commander: Explosives Control
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post:

  • Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management: King Williamstown: Eastern Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 244/2014)
  • Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management: Bloemfontein: Free State: (1 Post) (Ref FS 245/2014)

5. Post: Major
Commander: Explosives Unit
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post:

  • Germiston: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 246/2014)
  • Pietermaritzburg: Kwazulu-Natal (1 Post) (Ref FS 247/2014)

6. Post: Major
Commander: Crime Scene Laboratories
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management: King Williamstown: Eastern Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 248/2014)

7. Post: Major
Commander: Technical Management
Section: Regional Quality Management
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Plattekloof: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 249/2014)

8. Post: Chief Forensic Analyst (Major)
Section: Regional Quality Management
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Amazimtoti: Kwazulu-Natal (1 Post) (Ref FS 250/2014)

9. Post: Chief Forensic Analyst (Major)
Commander: Technical Management: Scientific Analysis
Section: Technical Management
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 251/2014)

10. Post: Chief Forensic Analyst (Major)
Sub Section Commander: Profiling Analysis
Section: Scientific Analysis
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Gauteng: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 252/2014)

11. Post: Lieutenant
Sub-Section: Criminal Profiling Centre
Section: Centralized CRC
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Pretoria: National Office (1 Post) (Ref FS 253/2014)

12. Post: Lieutenant
Sub-Section: Bomb Disposal
Section: Explosives
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Cape Town: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 254/2014)

13. Post: Senior State Accountant (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Bookkeeping: Finance and Administration Services
Section: Nodal Support Centre
Location of the post:

  • Forensic Science Laboratory: Amanzimtoti: Kwazulu-Natal (1 Post) (Ref FS 255/2014)
  • Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management: Durban: Kwazulu-Natal (1 Post) (Ref FS 256/2014)
  • Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management: Cape Town: Western Cape (1Post) (Ref FS 257/2014)

14. Post: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Specialized Identification Services: Data Collection
Section: Post Mortem Facilitation
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 258/2014)

15. Post: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Case Management
Section: Biology
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 259/2014)

16. Post: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Case Review
Section: Biology
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 260/2014)

17. Post: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Environmental Compliance: Regional Laboratory
Section: Quality Management: Forensic Science Laboratory
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Port Elizabeth: Eastern Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 261/2014)

18. Post: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Quality Assurance: Explosives
Section: Quality Management: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: National Office: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 262/2014)

GENERAL:

  • Only the official application form (available on the SAPS website and at SAPS recruitment offices) will be accepted. The Z83 previously utilized will no longer be accepted. All instructions on the application form must be adhered to and all previous/pending criminal/disciplinary convictions must be declared. Failure to do so may result in the rejection of the application.
  • The post particulars and reference number of the post must be correctly specified on the application form. A separate application form must be completed for each post.
  • A comprehensive Curriculum Vitae must be submitted together with the application form.
  • Certified copies (certification preferably by Police Officers) of an applicant’s ID document, motor vehicle driver’s license (Police Act appointments), Senior Certificate and all educational qualifications obtained together with the academic record (statement of results) thereof and service certificates of previous employers stating the occupation and the period, must also be submitted and attached to every application. The copies must be correctly certified on the copy itself, not at the back. The certification must not be older than three months. All qualifications and driver’s licenses submitted will be subjected to verification checking with the relevant institutions.
  • CANDIDATES ARE REQUESTED TO INITIAL EACH AND EVERY PAGE OF THE APPLICATION FORM, CV AND ALL ANNEXURES.
  • The closing date for the applications is 2015-03-13. Applications must be mailed timeously. Late applications will not be accepted or considered.
  • Appointments will be made in terms of the SAPS Act or Public Service Act as applicable to the post environment.
  • If a candidate is short-listed, it can be expected of him/her to undergo a personal interview.
  • Successful applicants to be appointed in terms of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act no 68 of 1995) and applicants not yet appointed in terms of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act no 68 of 1995) will have to undergo a medical examination and found to be medically fit. They will further have to comply with the prescripts on the SAPS Dress Order, whereby tattoos may not be visible when wearing uniform, must be willing to undergo the prescribed Introductory Police Development Learning Programme and are expected to work flexi hours or shifts in the execution of their duties.
  • The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, Act 37 of 2013 requires that all new recruits (appointments) in the South African Police Service as from 31st of January 2015 provide a buccal sample in order to determine their forensic DNA profile. The forensic DNA profile derived from the sample will be loaded to the National Forensic DNA Database.
  • The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, Act 37 of 2013 requires that all new recruits (appointments) in the South African Police Service as from 31st of January 2015 provide a buccal sample in order to determine their forensic DNA profile. The forensic DNA profile derived from the sample will be loaded to the National Forensic DNA Database.
  • Short-listed candidates for appointment to certain identified posts, will be vetted in terms of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 (Act No 32 of 2007) and the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act No 38 of 2005). A candidate, whose particulars appear in either the National Register for Sex Offenders or Part B of the Child Protection Register, will be disqualified from appointment to that post.
  • All short-listed candidates will be subjected to fingerprint screening. Candidates will be subjected to a vetting process which will include security screening and fingerprint verification.
  • Correspondence will be conducted with successful candidates only. If you have not been contacted within three (3) months after the closing date of this advertisement, please accept that your application was unsuccessful.
  • The South African Police Service is under no obligation to fill a post after the advertisement thereof.
  • The South African Police Service is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer and it is the intention to promote representivity in the Public Service through the filling of these posts. Persons whose transfer/appointment/promotion will promote representivity will therefore receive preference.

Applications and enquiries can be directed to:
Lt Colonel Klopper / Lt Moonsamy
Tel: (012) 421-0194
Tel: (012) 421-0584

Postal Address:
Private Bag X 322
PRETORIA
0001

Hand Delivery:
Cnr Beckett and Pretorius Street
Strelitzia Building
Arcadia

DNA database no threat to civil rights

February 24th, 2015

Mary de Haas has been quite vocal in the past regarding her negative stance on the DNA Bill and following its recent passing into law as the DNA Act and subsequent operational status, she has once again chosen to attack the issue of DNA reference sample collection by the police.

On the 23rd of February The Times published the following letter by de Haas:

Protect your DNA from cops

Overseas experience suggests that the link between the existence of a DNA database and crime-solving is not as simple as the general public is being led to believe.

Legally allowing police to take DNA samples from people they arrest (they arrest innocent people, as well as those guilty of serious crimes, routinely) is a threat to human rights.

The potential for abuse of these powers is huge, especially as DNA (even in profile form) has commercial value.

Human tissue samples should only be taken and handled by properly qualified medical personnel who are answerable to professional bodies – not by police who regularly act as if they are above the law.

Mary de Haas, Durban

In response, Vanessa rebutted with the following letter to The Times – which was published on the TimesLIVE website on the 24th of February:

DNA Reference Sample Collection Kit which will be used by the trained SAPS officials

De Haas is misinformed on a number of issues. Only arrestees who have been formally charged with a schedule 8 offence as well as convicted offenders will have their DNA samples taken by an authorised, trained police officer.

This is a simple cheek swab which takes no more than 30 seconds.

Nowhere else in the world are doctors or nurses required to take DNA samples from arrestees and convicted offenders as it is considered to be unnecessary, expensive and logistically impractical.

Furthermore, the reference sample will be destroyed once the forensic DNA profile has been loaded onto the database.

A forensic DNA profile contains only 15 pairs of  numbers, commonly referred to as “junk markers,” that were specifically chosen because they do not reveal any physical, behavioural or medical traits about that person.

The resultant sequence of numbers which make up a forensic DNA profile act simply as a unique identifier and nothing else;  just like fingerprinting.

As such there is no invasion of privacy as no private information is revealed and therefore is of no ‘commercial’ value as suggested by de Haas.

If the arrest does not result in a conviction, the profile will thereafter be removed from the DNA Database. If a conviction results, it will remain there indefinitely.

De Haas has been lamenting about the ‘serious human rights’ issues supposedly being brought about by the Database since its first introduction into Parliament in 2008.

Neither then nor throughout its five year progress through Parliament did she ever substantiate her reasons for this allegation nor submit any suggestions as to how this ‘breach’ could be addressed.

Public comments were called for on the DNA Bill by Parliament in both 2009 and 2013, and yet she never bothered to respond on either occasion.

Be that as it may, De Haas should be embracing this legislation which provides a regulatory framework to ensure that the retention framework of the Database is in fact maintained in the way in which the act envisages it to be managed.

Our new laws address this robustly and have the added protection of an Oversight and Ethics Board as well as The Human Rights Commission, which incidentally were satisfied that no human rights would be breached by this implementation of this Act.

Note too that de Haas did not apply for a position to the National Forensic and Oversight Board which surprises me since she believes it will pose such serious human rights problems.

De Haas alleging that her comments are ‘based on overseas experience’ is ridiculous to say the least. Unlike de Haas, I have in fact attended several international DNA conferences and forensic DNA profiling is without doubt considered to be the forensic tool of choice and one of the most objective forms of evidence available to crime scene investigators today.

The NAS report: Strengthening Forensic Science [Feb 2009] concluded that “…with the exception of nuclear DNA analysis, . . . no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”

Coupled with the fact that no country which has introduced DNA legislation to expand its DNA Database has ever reduced the scope of its database, is de Haas seriously suggesting we should simply ignore its huge potential as a crime resolution tool?

Whilst there will certainly be challenges going forward, we should be  welcoming legislation which creates accountability amongst the criminal population, which is in keeping with international standards and we should at the very least be supporting our existing forensic science labs who have already started to identify serial offenders as well as solve cold cases through the linking of profiles on the database.

De Haas professes to be an expert on the matter. In truth her letter reveals the contrary.

It shows that she has not  read the provisions of the new DNA Act nor made any effort to understand the complex nature of why this legislation is such a significant step forward in South Africa.  Since her last letter, the legislation has not only been passed, but is now operational.

Over the next five years we expect to see even more progress. Hopefully by that time de Haas will have found something else to write about.

Sincerely

Vanessa Lynch, Founder & Executive Director of The DNA Project

Marie Claire & Blow the Whistle #MCNaked Campaign

February 17th, 2015

Marie Claire’s popular Naked issue, in aid of Blow the Whistle (BTW) and supported by 1st For Women Insurance is on sale now. Featuring 35 local celebrities in the nude, the issue aims to raise awareness of Blow the Whistle’s support of women that are victims of rape and abuse.

“This is probably one of our most powerful Naked issues yet,” says Aspasia Karras, editor of Marie Claire. “We are all vulnerable and naked in the face of the high rate of violent and sexual crime in South Africa against women and children. This campaign aims to give a voice to the many thousands who suffer daily. Our aim is simple; to raise awareness and allow those who are victims to feel safe and come forward and speak up.”

Anti-rape initiative, Blow the Whistle is a national campaign focused on the empowerment of women and children in the face of the incidence of rape and abuse, by giving them the platforms necessary to feel safe. They have developed an app that allows users to select four Guardians to watch over them wherever they are. The app, which can be downloaded on Whistle.co.za, has a private panic button that sends a notification to the Guardians when pressed. The app is also equipped with a journey-monitoring function, allowing users to load their journey details, as well as the amount of time it should take them to get there. If the timer runs out without the journey being cancelled or extended, a notification will be sent to the users Guardians, along with the coordinates and address of their current location. BTW has also produced small and unobtrusive whistles to blow to attract attention when one is in need of help.

All proceeds of the Naked campaign will go towards BTW’s beneficiary, The DNA Project, which works on the development of crime scene DNA forensics. The DNA Project is aimed at expanding the existing National Forensic DNA Database of South Africa that holds the DNA profiles of convicted criminals. DNA profiling is a key component in the conviction of rapists. Any persons arrested for rape or sexual assault will have their DNA profile loaded onto the database, which will be searchable in new DNA investigations to establish any matches in identifying a suspect.

“Blow the Whistle is proud to be associated to the Naked issue,” notes Mike Rowley and Sureshnie Rider, co-founders of the BTW campaign. “Blow the Whistle is about giving woman a voice and allowing them to be heard,” states Rider “This issue really speaks to that voice. It’s about empowerment. It’s about all citizens forming a community and starting a conversation.”
As Rowley concludes, “Our women and children are our nation’s greatest asset and we cannot fail them.”

Marie Claire cover - March 2015

How to get involved

Share one’s voice. Speak up and tell others to do the same. Marie Claire has created a picture gallery on its website, where readers can post their message of support or opinion on sexual violence. This gallery will be shared on Marie Claire’s Facebook page. To drive engagement and more discussion; 1st For Women Insurance will donate R10 000 towards The DNA Project when the Facebook gallery reaches 1000 shares.

Donate: SMS the word ‘WHISTLE’ to 38157 to make a donation of R10 towards BTW.

Buy a whistle for R36 from The Cross Trainer stores or from hotels in the Legacy Group around South Africa. (For more information, visit www.whistle.co.za).

Supporting the 2015 campaign is 1st for Women Insurance.

Robyn Farrell, the executive head of 1st for Women Insurance and a trustee of the 1st for Women Foundation says: “We are proud to sponsor Marie Claire’s Naked campaign. We believe that it cuts through the charity clutter and makes a bold statement – it exposes the naked truth of the rape epidemic and forces South Africans to pay attention and start a conversation. The purpose of the campaign aligns with the aim of the 1st for Women Foundation which has, since its inception in 2005, donated over R30-million to a number of women-related charity organisations that focus on assisting survivors of gender-based violence and making the HPV vaccine more accessible to South African women.”

Celebrities taking part in the 2015 campaign are:

Lira; DJ Milkshake from 5FM; Pearl Thusi and Masasa Mbangeni; Daniel Nash, Thithi Nteta and Andrew Berry; Chris Chameleon and Danielle Deysel; Angel Campey and Shimmy Isaacs; Schalk Bezuidenhout; Michael Lowman and his girlfriend, brand manager Daisy May; JP Duminy and his wife, Sue Duminy; Ewan Strydom; Guy McDonald, Carl Wastie, Sandra Rosenberg and Erin-Li from of Good Hope FM Breakfast; Joelle Kayembe; Katherine Pichulik; George van der Spuy, Rian Zietsman, Jason Ling and Louis Nel from Taxi Violence; Nadia Velvekens, Leandie du Randt and Amalia Uys; Stefan Ludik, Reynardt Hugo, Theodore Jantjies and Nkululeko Tshirumbula and radio personality Vic Naidoo.

Marie Claire will post more content, interviews and behind-the-scenes videos of the 2015 Naked campaign online, as well as more information on BTW. For all the updates, visit www.marieclaire.co.za.

SOURCE: Lira to grace cover of Marie Claire’s 2015 Naked issue – Media Update – published 16 February 2015

Appointment to the DNA Oversight and Ethics Board confirmed

February 9th, 2015

Last week I received a letter such as none I have ever received before.

It was signed by the Minister of Police and confirmed my appointment as a Member and Deputy Chairperson of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board. This part time appointment will run for the next five years.

The reason I am so excited about this appointment is because key to the successful implementation of the DNA Act, is the establishment of this Oversight Board which will provide ethical oversight over the National DNA database and handle complaints relating to the taking, retention and use of DNA samples and forensic DNA profiles. Comprising of ten members, half of which have been chosen from outside of the Government sector, this Oversight Board’s core functions will include monitoring the implementation of the provisions of the DNA Act and making proposals to the Minister for any improvements regarding the overall operations of the database.

Looking at countries around the world which have introduced DNA legislation in the past, they have all done so under the guidance of some form of Oversight Board in response to meeting the commitments imposed upon it by any new DNA legislation. An oversight body furthermore creates accountability and functions as a watchdog not only to ensure ethical compliance with the provisions of the Act but compliance with the time frames within which forensic DNA profiles should be analysed and loaded onto the DNA Database. The purpose of a DNA Database is to load as many arrestee and convicted offender profiles onto the Database, and this important expansion process needs to be closely monitored.

I for one feel honoured to have been tasked with this important role and have notified the Minister that I gladly and willingly accept the appointment and look forward to the important work ahead in helping ensure that the DNA Act is properly and optimally implemented. I do and have always believed that the DNA Act will have a profound effect on crime resolution in South Africa and am delighted to be have been chosen so that I can continue to be part of this process.

The Act states that the first meeting of the Oversight Board has to be held within 30 days of the Act having been declared operational, which is 30 days from the 31st January 2015: namely on or before 2nd March 2015. I am ready as ever and look forward to meeting my new colleagues and hope they are as eager as I am to finally help translate the pages of this Act into real crime resolution.

In the meantime, the work of The DNA Project remains as important as ever —  we need to continue to create awareness around crime scene preservation. When a crime scene is not disturbed, forensic evidence has the power to determine exactly what happened and who committed the crime. Disturb the crime scene, and we lose that opportunity forever and no legislation nor Oversight Board, however good, can change that.

Vanessa Lynch