Meet some of our team

We recently appointed another trainer and assistant in the KZN area, Grant Godsmark, a  young and dynamic Genetic Hons graduate from UCT, with a passion for DNA. This weeks blog entry has been written by Grant and looks at the reasons why he thinks we urgently need DNA

Grant Godsmark at a Training Workshop

Grant Godsmark at a Training Workshop

legislation in this country. As it stands, the latest information indicates that the Portfolio Committee’s “study tour” of the UK and Canadian DNA labs  is scheduled for the 24th of June 2011 to the 10th of July 2011. That is a total of 15 days. Wow. Is that not a long time to spend viewing two labs? How do you feel about this? Read how we feel! Let us know what you think, by posting a comment or writing on our Facebook page.

This is what one reader had to say:

“I am working for a Rape Centre, every day I see the people these ministers are suppose to protect. Small children are raped by serial rapist who roam the streets and cannot be arrested or sentenced because the DNA project does not get the urgent attention it needs!!! Why is everything in this great country of us backwards, is money and freedom to do as they wish so important to our leaders. PLEASE wake up and start looking after the innocent!!!!”

Here is what Grant has to say:

Is South Africa missing out on the benefits of using DNA to help apprehend criminals?

We have all watched an episode of CSI, or other detective programs, and so we know how important evidence left at the crime scene can be. In every episode the criminal is caught with the help of evidence (often DNA) left at the scene of the crime. Although things happen really fast on TV….. all the forensic techniques that are shown are actually used by police to help solve crime. In reality DNA profiling is successfully used every day by police forces all over the world to apprehend and convict criminals. So you may be wondering: What are we doing in South Africa?

Well, you will be pleased to know that we have state of the art equipment that is used to analyze DNA evidence found at crime scenes. This equipment includes the world’s first fully automated system that can be used for high volume forensic DNA analysis.  But despite access to this amazing technology, South Africa is not maximizing the use of DNA as a forensic tool. One reason for this is that we do not have the necessary legislation to allow our police force to use the technology to its full potential. In South Africa current legislation does not allow for all people arrested, or convicted of a crime to have their DNA profile placed on the National DNA Database of South Africa (NDDSA). If this was to happen then when police do not have a suspect, and the perpetrator is been previously arrested or convicted, a comparison between the crime scene profile and profiles on the database may provide police with a suspect. Amendments to the current legislation have been proposed which will allow for all evidence collected at crime scenes to be compared to the database and possible suspects to be identified. Click here for more details.

This system is currently being used in USA, UK and Europe with great results. In the UK, in 70% of cases where DNA profiles from crime scene evidence are loaded onto the database, there is a match with someone already on the database. This means that when police have no suspect they are given a lead in the case just by searching the database. Imagine how effective this would be in South Africa where most of our criminals have committed many crimes – we just need to get them on the database once!

Unfortunately, the parliamentary committee tasked with considering the changes in legislation has been dragging their heels since 2009. In July they plan on going on a fact finding mission to the UK and Canada before considering implementing this legislation. This despite the fact that DNA databases have been effectively used by these countries since 1995. So…..why should South Africans, who live with some of the highest crime rates in the world, not be able to benefit from this incredible technology? The reason is simply that a small piece of legislation is the final hurdle keeping us from convicting the people responsible for crimes like murder and rape in South Africa. We all need to fight for this legislation to be passed as soon as possible so that we can make criminals accountable for their actions. We need everyone to support the proposed changes in legislation and to put pressure onto the committee to pass the amendment. All South Africans will then be able to breathe a little easier knowing that if something happens to our loved ones, the SAPS will finally be able to do the best they can to apprehend these criminals.

Written by Grant Godsmark

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