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Key Note Speech: The Acting National Commissioner: Opening of 4th Forensic Services Conference

Pretoria, 27 February 2017

Programme Director
Deputy National Commissioners
The host, the Acting Divisional Commissioner of Forensic Services, Major General Mangale
Provincial Commissioners of Northern Cape, Free State and Western Cape
Divisional Commissioners of Detective Services and Finance and Administration Services
Senior management of the SAPS
All SAPS members present
International and local speakers
Dr Sarah Benson and Dr Michael Taylor from the Australian Federal Police, in the forensic environment 
Dr Jan Garavaglia known as Dr G, retired forensic pathologist medical examiner
Mr Martin Hanley, LGC Accredited Laboratory in the U.K.
Dr Reinoud Stoel from the Netherlands Forensic Institute 
Professor Mike Cole, Head of Research, UK University 
Service providers
Members of the news media
Distinguished guests

Good Morning

It is an honour and privilege to present the key note address during the 4th Forensic Services Conference under the theme: Fundamentals of Forensic Evidence which ties in with the overall Back to Basics Approach of the SAPS. Part of the Back to Basics approach in the Forensic Services Division is ensuring that the correct protocols are adhered to when processing exhibit material at crime scenes and within the laboratories in line with the ISO 17020 and ISO 17025 Quality Management System.

The enforcement and ensuring compliance of a Quality Management System based on the international ISO standards such as ISO9001, ISO17025 and ISO17020 at the Division: Forensic Services is pivotal in the process of certification and accrediting the services of the laboratory.

The certification and accreditation framework embarked on will ensure that the examination areas support the implementation of the DNA Act. I am pleased to announce that the Section: Forensic Database Management which is responsible for managing the National Forensic DNA Database and for communication of forensic investigative leads has become the first Section in the South African Police Service to be successfully registered for  certification compliance to the international ISO9001:2015 standard. The process for accrediting forensic examination methods is well underway and we expect the positive outcomes of additional examination types during the 2017/2018 financial year.

The mandate of the Division: Forensic Services is to support the investigation of crime through the collection and processing of crime scenes, forensic evidence and the maintenance of criminal records. The existence of the forensic structure within the SAPS is mainly to assist the detectives by providing support in the investigation of crime. Our aim is not only to prove the guilt of the perpetrator, but also to exonerate the innocent.

Ladies and gentlemen, as police officers and forensic experts converge as part of this conference, let me remind you that lessons to be learnt in this week must be used to improve the policing and forensic services within the borders of the Republic of South Africa. The purpose of this conference is mainly to share best practices within the areas of crime scene investigation, forensic processing of exhibits and to explore new technologies and techniques in the forensic field.

Our government has demonstrated a firm commitment to reform the Criminal Justice System by introducing the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, which is commonly referred to as the DNA Act and Fingerprint Act.

In 2010 the legislation in relation to fingerprints or photographic images was passed into law. This piece of legislation empowers the police to take, store and keep fingerprints and photographic images.

It is imperative to note that the legislation makes it mandatory to destroy fingerprints and photographic images within 30 days when courts have withdrawn the case or the accused person was acquitted. This is a measure taken to protect human rights. The legislation made the following expectations to enable proper implementation and compliance: namely, the issuing of a National Instruction, Access to other government departments’ fingerprint and photographic databases; development of training interventions; interfacing of different systems (CRIM/ NPIS & CAS/ CRIM interface) and the further roll-out of the Automated Fingerprint Information System (AFIS).

It is encouraging that the South African Police Service has fulfilled the abovementioned legislative aspirations and it can be reported that all milestones have been attained with the exception of a fully automated access to the Home Affairs National Information System (HANIS).

The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, Act 37 of 2013 or commonly referred to the “DNA Act” became operational on the 31st January 2015. This Act provides us with the required legal framework to ensure that forensic DNA examinations contribute to the successful and effective investigation of criminal casework. The Act formally established the National Forensic DNA Database which will consist of a number of indices containing the forensic DNA profiles derived from samples collected from different categories of persons and crime samples.

The “DNA Act” makes provision for several safeguards and defining penalties to ensure that forensic exhibit material and samples are collected, stored and used only for the purposes related to the detection of crime, the investigation of an offence or prosecution. The Minister of Police on 27 January 2015, appointed the Forensic Oversight and Ethical Board. The Board will monitor and ensure compliance to the Act and ethical conduct.

The following progress can be reported specifically in relation to the implementation of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, Act 37 of 2013:

  • National training of authorized persons to take buccal samples (it also includes the introduction to the DNA Act & Fingerprint Act) is progressing well and to date almost 26 000 members have been trained. The main focus group of this training is directed towards our detectives.
  • Taking of buccal samples for certain categories of persons, including the taking of buccal samples from sentenced persons;
  • The National Forensic DNA Database is established with the daily loading of forensic DNA profiles to the different Indices. The current database has more than 710 000 forensic DNA profiles. This database is currently the largest on the continent of Africa and amongst the ten largest globally. 210 000 profiles in accordance to the requirements of the DNA Act have been expunged to date.
  • The Forensic Oversight & Oversight Board was appointed on 27th January 2015.

The establishment of the fingerprint and DNA databases has proven to be successful in the investigation of crime and convictions. Innocent persons are also exonerated during the early stages of investigation. Through the use of the DNA database, forensic DNA investigative leads linking persons to 15 531 cases and linking 10 496 different cases have been reported to investigating officers since the operational date of the Act.

The SAPS Division: Forensic Services has reached another milestone since the Forensic Services Conference held in 2013 under the Theme: ‘Uncovering the Myths Around forensics, Is Forensics the Solution in the Fight Against Crime’.

Since the first conference, Forensic Services has embarked on several initiatives to improve and align our services, processes, technology and techniques in line with the current advancement in forensic practices. We acquired the latest technology for crime scene processing and laboratory analysis; amongst others, the semi-automation of the analysis of buccal samples to support the implementation of the DNA Act. These measures assisted us in reducing our back logs and improving turn-around times. A recent report published by the Department of Monitoring & Evaluation on the Incremental Investment in Forensic Services indicates that the impact of providing forensic products is also now impacting positively on the resolution of crime and of court processes.

Distinguished guests, in September 2016 we released a set of crime statistics covering the previous financial year.  We were pleased to advise that reported serious crime had decreased by 1.4% in 2015/2016 compared to 2014/2015.  A 10 year comparison depicted a 9% decrease in serious reported crime.  This picture was very encouraging and the SAPS built on these decreases to ensure that we could further assure our communities that we are serving them well and within the parameters of our Constitutional mandate.  It was also announced that we would be releasing crime statistics on a more regular basis.  It is envisaged that, within the next week, we will again be reporting on more recent crime statistics and I am confident that South Africans will be satisfied that we are progressing well in ensuring that all in our country are and feel safe.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have found that these Forensic Services conferences are contributing significantly to a more cooperative and cohesive approach to conducting court-directed investigations, backed up by solid forensic work. We must work harder and smarter to ensure that we speak on behalf of those victims of crime who cannot speak for themselves.  By ensuring sound crime scene management and the pure collection and processing of forensic evidence, we must satisfy the surviving crime victims and all victims’ families that justice is done and is seen to be done.

Let me take this opportunity to offer our sincere thanks to the SAPS members and other law enforcement agencies who conducted themselves in a professional and efficient manner last Friday, 24 February 2017 in countering anti-foreigner protest action in the Pretoria CBD and in Sunnyside.  The media and the communities of South Africa witnessed a restrained, well-trained, disciplined, coordinated, firm-yet-empathetic police service in action and our efforts were well-received.  What could have devolved into violent confrontations, were de-escalated, and potentially violent mobs were channelled away from the points of conflict.  We are very proud of our Public Order Police and Visible Policing members as well as all other SAPS units and NATJOINTS role players and they, together with their commanders, are to be commended. Let me assure you that we continue to monitor the situation, deploy our members in “hot spot” areas identified by the intelligence environment and we are conducting special operations.

Thank you for your attendance at this conference – there is no doubt that it is going to be interesting and topical; I look forward to the feedback.

I officially announce the opening of the 4th Forensic Services Conference.  All delegates will be expected to use this opportunity to learn and share best practices.

I thank you.