Press Release:-The Government of Saint Lucia on Friday February 24th 2017 announced that Saint Lucia’s Forensic Science Laboratory has reopened.
Speaking at a press briefing on Friday, Minister for Home Affairs, Justice and National Security Senator Honourable Hermangild Francis explained that the Government has adopted a phased approach to the reopening which it hopes will facilitate the transition to full operations.
Also at the morning briefing held at the Prime Minister’s Office, was Director of Public Prosecutions Mr. Daasrean Greene, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for Justice Dr. Cadelia Ambrose, Acting Commissioner of Police Mr. Milton Desir and Director of Forensic Science Services Ms. Fernanda Henry.
The Minister explained: “The Saint Lucia Forensic Laboratory was closed on May 6th 2015 when it was discovered that there were improprieties in evidence handling and the security of the facility.”
Following this an internal audit was conducted to assess these shortcomings and to investigate evidence tampering within the facility.
“Such action was complemented by an investigation conducted by law enforcement officers,” the Minister added. “The investigation is completed and the file is now with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions who, based on all available information, will make a determination as to any necessary action.”
Minister Francis also informed the media of other issues with the facility including “a degree of structural weakness.”
“Technical reports indicate that while the building can remain occupied, remedial work must be undertaken to prevent further damage, and to strengthen the integrity of the existing structure,” he noted.
The Minister emphasized the pivotal role forensic science plays in criminal investigations and the importance of reopening the facility to provide scientific support to the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.
“However, there is a need to proceed in a careful and proper manner. Considering this, and the different factors currently at play, it is our intention to execute a phased re-opening of the facility in a manageable environment.”
The Minister noted that the “credibility and confidence in a forensic laboratory are vital to its operations” and that the Government “is committed to doing everything necessary to ensure that these are upheld.”
The new leadership of the facility, along with support personnel, will assist in areas of technical operations, staff training and development.
The Minister stated: “Current staff have been screened and vetted; a new security system has been installed. Standard operating procedures have been reviewed and amended to international standards. Similarly, all laboratory protocols have been reviewed to ensure that the improprieties of the past do not re-occur.”
Finally the Minister added that the Government’s intention is to also explore the possibility of operating of the forensic laboratory under a joint public private partnership arrangement and proposals submitted are being carefully assessed.