Saint Lucia’s forensic laboratory began a phased opening today under new management headed by Director, Fernanda Henry.
Henry told reporters at a news conference this morning that since she reported for duty the laboratory has been active in assisting the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) with investigations.
“We are functioning to our capacity to a certain extent outside the building,” the Director said, adding that a move into the building could constitute phase two.
She explained that a phased opening meant that the facility would begin with certain analyses initially and grow as it progresses into full operation.
“We are taking it one step at a time,” Henry told reporters at a news conference this morning.
She said she could not reveal when the laboratory would move into full operation, but asserted that the ‘phasing’ began as of today.
Henry would not be drawn on what analyses the laboratory would begin with, telling today’s news conference that such a disclosure would compromise the operations of the facility.
National Security Minister, Hermangild Francis, who was also at the news conference, made it clear that the government was not abandoning its policy of looking for a joint public and private sector partnership in connection with the operations of the forensic laboratory.
(Officials at news conference)
Francis disclosed that on February 21, 2017, Henry and Forensic Scientist, Louis Murray, visited Trinidad where a potential investor has his own laboratory.
He said he was awaiting a report on the way forward.
“So this phased opening that we are having today may be even quicker if things are in order – when I have read the report and I am satisfied that we can do that private public partnership with the individual, then we will see work being generated very quickly,” the minister said.
He explained that samples from Saint Lucia can be sent to Trinidad.
The minister said the laboratory has been closed but all staff were being paid.
According to him, an internal audit, complemented by an investigation by law enforcement, was undertaken to assess shortcomings and to investigate evidence tampering.
The investigation is completed and the file now with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who will make a determination on any necessary action, Francis revealed.
He told the news conference that subsequent to the closure of the forensic laboratory, a degree of structural weakness, sufficient to warrant some corrective work, was identified.
Francis observed that Technical reports indicate that while the building can remain occupied remedial work must be undertaken to prevent further damage and strengthen the existing structure.
The minister disclosed that laboratory staff have been screened and vetted.
He said there is a new security system in place and standard operating procedures have been reviewed and amended to international standards, while all laboratory protocols reviewed to ensure that ‘improprieties’ of the past do not reoccur.
Acting Director of Public Prosecutions, Daarsrean Greene, welcomed the phased opening of the forensic laboratory, asserting that it was a ‘great move’ by the government.
“I eagerly await the first day of the reopening of this lab,” he told today’s news conference.
The $6 million laboratory at Tapion was opened in December 2009 but was closed in 2015.