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(GIS) – Updates to Saint Lucia’s forensic laboratory are progressing, as government provides funding for improvements to its physical structure, human, and technical resources.
Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet recently visited the facility to see the improvements first hand.
“We had a very impromptu tour with the Prime Minister this morning and I want to express to him our thanks for the $700,000 injection for infrastructural repairs,” said Fernanda Henry, Director of Forensic Science Services. “There were cracks in the building; we were suffering from pools of water which eventually led to growth of mold, and we had to close down the facility for several months due to mold infestation. I really wanted to show him the work that had been done to be able to move back into the building and get the moisture levels down.”
The government of Saint Lucia is committed to reducing serious crime by 45 percent by 2022, as part of its medium term development plan which focuses on citizen safety and security. Investigations and prosecutions are also part of that plan, which is where the forensic laboratory plays a critical role.
“On May 6th, 2015 the Forensic Laboratory was closed when it was discovered that there were improprieties in evidence handling and the security of the facility,” the prime minister explained. “Given the importance of this lab in assisting in solving and the prosecution of crime, my party made a campaign promise to reopen the Forensic Laboratory in Tapion if we were elected. On February 24th, 2017 as promised, we reopened the Forensic Laboratory via a phased approach with the intention of facilitating the transition to full operation. After a few months of operation additional issues were discovered which required further intervention.
“Government invested EC$700,000 to address issues such as leaks, structural faults, security issues and mold. Upon completion of the rehabilitative work at the Forensic Lab, operations at the facility recommenced. This morning, I was given a tour of the facility by the Director Ms. Fernanda Henry to see firsthand the interventions and improvements at thelLab. I was thoroughly impressed with the professionalism of the staff and the results which they have been able to achieve. Several crimes have been successfully prosecuted due to the work carried out at this vital facility. I want to thank Ms. Henry and her team for their dedication and professionalism and pledge government’s continued support to improve and advance the operations of Saint Lucia’s Forensic Laboratory.”
Once the lab is fully functional, it will be conducting forensic drug chemistry testing with an expanded scope, DNA testing, trace examination, firearm analysis and digital forensics. The lab will also absorb the Crime Scene Unit of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. As a result, the lab must be accredited.
“A team will come from an external body that accredits labs,” Ms. Henry explained. “They will look at our documents and case files to see if we have been consistent. They will also have one on one interviews, and have an opportunity to see persons in-lab. Afterward, they will discuss with us their findings and what areas we need to improve on. They will then give us a timeframe to make those recommended changes. Once there is approval that we have made those changes to their satisfaction they will grant us accreditation.”
It is expected that the lab when fully functioning, will result in significant cost savings for the government.
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