The DNA Project, since its inception, has not only purchased and provided the FSL with laboratory equipment for both the Pretoria and Western Cape Labs, but has initiated DNA forensic awareness training programs, developed a post graduate forensic analyst qualification, funded the UK Forensic Science Services review of SA's FSL's and is currently assisting with changes in legislation.
In February 2008, the DNA Project, through the generous sponsorship of the Change a Life Mike Thomson Trust, sponsored the Forensic Science Services (“The FSS”) visit to SA to conduct a Diagnostic Review of the Forensic Science Lab in Pretoria. The purpose of the visit was to enable the FSS to better understand the current situation in SA and the vision of the future of forensic DNA in SA. Issues such as scene of crime requirements, legislative impact, technical processes, procedures and techniques currently used within the FSL, were explored. Currently, DNA analysis to support the South African Police Service (SAPS) is provided by 2 laboratories, Pretoria and Western Cape. The Pretoria unit is the largest and houses the National DNA Database.
The FSS were requested to undertake a review of the Pretoria Forensic Science Lab (FSL), Biology Unit (BU) to establish if anything could be done to improve the efficiency and hence capacity of the DNA analytical process; reduce the existing backlog; improve the contribution of the unit to the detection and conviction of offenders and make recommendations for future development and expansion of the DNA Database.
The outcome of the Diagnostic Review by the FSS was a comprehensive ﬁndings report with recommendations to support the enhancement of DNA processing in SA including a number of proposed solutions from the FSS to meet those recommendations. This report was submitted to the FSL following a presentation of the above ﬁndings to the FSL in Pretoria, in July 2008.
The Forensic Science Services (FSS) completed a week long visit to the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Pretoria, in July 2008, following the completion of a diagnostic review at the FSL. The visit, arranged by The DNA Project, was specifically aimed to further improve the FSL’s current capabilities and capacities to conduct DNA forensic analyses, and for general forensic laboratory improvement. The FSS, in response to the DNA’s Project’s initiative, submitted a proposal to the DNA Project to conduct a Diagnostic Review within SA’s FSL to enable the FSS to better understand the current situation in SA and the vision of the future of forensic DNA in SA.
Issues such as scene of crime requirements, legislative impact, technical processes, procedures and techniques currently used within the FSL, were explored. The outcome of the Diagnostic Review by the FSS was a comprehensive and strategic findings report with recommendations to support the enhancement of DNA processing in SA including a number of proposed solutions from the FSS to meet those recommendations. The report was rendered to the DNAP together with the FSL at a formal presentation held in Pretoria in July 2008.
Whilst in Pretoria performing the Diagnostic Review, Mr Allan Matthews, the International Business Director for the FSS, gave an informative dialogue in which he illustrated how the use of the UK’s National DNA Database has translated into thousands of crimes solved and offenders convicted as a result of the above co-ordinated approach in the UK. In the longer term, as a result of the introduction of DNA profiling and the power of the NDNAD, the UK has seen a significant impact on overall crime rates, particularly in those offences classified as volume crime (burglary and car crime). Every week in the UK suspects arrested for relatively minor crimes are being matched, by the use of the NDNAD, to DNA evidential material recovered from undetected homicides and serious sexual offences. The investigative power of these techniques cannot be ignored.
The DNA Project held in depth discussions with a senior State Attorney, key role players within the Forensic Science Laboratory as well as the Manager of the UK DNA Database, Mr Alan Matthews to discuss ways in which the DNAP can help lobby support for legislative changes. The FSS to this end, have provided the DNAP with recommendations, based on the UK’s journey through no less than 6 (six) legislation amendments over the past 15 years, which allowed for the regulated and judicious management of the DNA Database in the UK. Issues such as sample retention, use of profiles and database searching are all being addressed in order to ensure compliance with Human Right Issues as well as restrict use of the DNA database to criminal intelligence. These efforts need to be supported by collating all the research being done, drawing a proposal for submission to the SA Law Commission Review and ensuring that the public lobby support for this initiative.
The FSS and its National DNA Database is considered worldwide, to be the benchmark of DNA Forensic practices and DNA Databasing. The Manager of the UK Database, Mr Alan Matthews confirmed that when the UK National DNA database (NDNAD) was launched in 1995 it was anticipated that 35,000 DNA reference samples would be processed in the first year. The reality was that the UK police submitted over 135,000 samples. This showed the perceived value this ‘new’ forensic tool had to assist the police and Criminal Justice Systems with criminal investigations. In order to achieve this, a strategic approach was taken which required by the co-operation of the FSS, Police & the National Police Training Centre (NPTC) as well as the Home Office. This partnership was designed to:
• Increase the police submissions of DNA samples from crime scenes and suspects
• Increase the quality of police submissions
• Decrease the number of samples being rejected for administrative failures
• Decrease the number of DNA samples failing to give DNA profile
• Increase the understanding of the need for proper packaging, storage and chain of custody of DNA evidence
• Increase the police understanding of legislative issues and the changed police processes
• ensure the Rapid development in the size of the National DNA Database
• Increase the impact of DNA profiling on crime detection and clear up rates
The FSS is an internationally renowned centre of excellence for casework, research, training and consultancy. It has assisted over 60 countries in the field of forensic science. FSS experts visit forensic facilities overseas, to review work practices, advise on the latest technology and promote the implementation of techniques validated in its own laboratories. It has over 2,500 employees based across the UK and the FSS has six sites that process DNA samples for casework, with three sites that deliver specifically to the UK NDNAD. The three DNA profiling units for the UK NDNAD have state of the art automation facilities to ensure the most efficient processing of samples.
The UK’s National DNA Database® was the first of its kind in the world and has received widespread acknowledgement as the most important advance since fingerprinting in the prevention and detection of crime. It is a dynamic database, as profiles are constantly added to it. The Forensic Science Service® is contracted to run The National DNA Database® on behalf of the Home Office. Following requests from other countries the FSS has produced database software (FSS-iD™) based on its experience running and developing the UK database.
The following items on the FSL's "wish list" have to date been donated to the FSL by the DNA Project:
Western Cape Lab
Autoclave, Gold 96-Well GENEAMP PCR System 9700, Canon 350 Digital camera, Laptop Computers, Hemospat Software, Pipettes
Crimezone 3d Software, Hemospat Software, PhotomodelerPro Software, Garmin GPS
In addition to the above items, the Pretoria FSL has 8 Imaging Work stations which form part of the 2 Evidence Recovery Laboratories (ERL) – Each of these ERL's needs a camera, macro lens, macro lighting flash, tripod and head, and (most importantly, given the requirement to use these images in court testimony) a Data Verification Kit (to verify the authenticity of the image - proof that no tampering had taken place with the image).
In response to this need, the DNA Project has provided the Pretoria FSL with:
1. High-resolution digital cameras (compatible with DVK; see below).
2. Data verification kits (DVK), to verify that images taken with the digital camera have not been altered, tampered with or manipulated in any way.
3. Macro lens', for recording fine detail of evidence.
4. Flash units, to properly illuminate items being photographed in macro mode.
5. Photo printers, to allow for photographic records to be printed for presentation in court cases.
6. Tripods, suitable of facilitating macro photography in a studio environment.
The infinity curve, serving as a suitable backdrop to allow for the capturing of images not disturbed by distracting backgrounds (this is part of the supplies included in the current building contract). As important as the DNA profile is to securing a conviction, it is just as imperative to present irrefutable supporting evidence, e.g. with regards to the chain of custody, when having to testify in a court case. This is where this photographic work station comes in - to indicate the original condition, at the time of evidence recovery and examination of an object from which a DNA profile was retrieved, or to even capture the condition of a package containing evidence submitted for forensic examination, e.g. to indicate that the package was sealed properly at the time it was received, proving that the chain of custody was intact (no tampering with the evidence could have taken place), and therefore any DNA profiles obtained from the evidence may be accepted as valid.
A RECENT donation of DNA profiling equipment valued at R232 000 will see criminal investigators in Cape Town moving forward in forensic analysis and the fight against crime, officials said.
Yesterday afternoon project leader and founder of the DNA Project, Vanessa Lynch, joined senior superintendent of the Western Cape Forensic Science Lab, Mafiki Maluleke, in a ceremonial handing over of forensic equipment to the laboratory in Bellville.
The lab was the second to receive a donation from the organisation, which was formed by Lynch after evidence in her father’s murder investigation three and a half years ago was mishandled by police. “I recognised that there were shortfalls, and I wanted to address these shortfalls with a constructive approach,” said Lynch. She said it was important to make “tangible” progress at the “operational level,” beginning with the lab workers forced to do “the best they can with the little they have”.
The contribution included a GeneAmp designed for DNA replication, blood spatter analysis software, an autoclave used for sterilisation, auto-controlled measurement pipettes, a digital camera and data verification kit for cataloguing pictures of legally recognisable evidence, and a microcentrifuge for substance separation.
According to Maluleke, the current backlog of cases that require forensic analysis before appearing in court is about 600. “This donation will help us put in more cases than we would have been able to,” he said.
“Already we can see where these donations have made a difference. Four analysts would have to wait in line to process evidence before the equipment was given. And things like the autoclave make their instruments immediately available to them,” she said.
Thanking her on behalf of SA Forensic Science Lab management, he called the donations a gift for the “community of South Africa” as a whole.
In a recent success for the DNA Project, Lynch’s proposal to bring teams of scientists from the Forensic Science Services in the UK, to the facility in Pretoria for assessment has been accepted. Their database in the UK processes some 40 000 reference samples per month. The trip will be sponsored by the DNA Project. Written by BLISS BARBER
Thanks to the generous support of sponsors, the Leigh Matthews Trust/DNA Golf Day held at Wanderers Golf Club on Tuesday 7th August 2007, was a resounding success. Despite it being one of the coldest day’s in Johannesburg, the players braved the elements and carried on their support throughout the evening.
The highlight of the evening was the handing over of approximately R330 000 worth of much needed DNA Equipment to the Gauteng and Western Cape Laboratories, from money raised by the Leigh Matthews Trust during the course of 2006/2007. The Director of the Western Cape Forensic Lab, Deon Meintjies and the Commissioner of the FSL, were both present to receive the list of the equipment which ranged from Pipettes, Autoclaves and DNA Profiling equipment, to Laptops and Crime software.