100 000 case backlog at Forensics Labs – DNA delayed is justice denied for thousands of GBV victims

Issued by Andrew Whitfield MP – DA Shadow Minister of Police
21 Aug 2020 in News

The Democratic Alliance (DA) can reveal that the catastrophic backlog in processing DNA case exhibits at the National Forensic Science Laboratories (NFSL) is nearing 100 000 cases, denying thousands of victims of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), and other crimes, recourse to justice.

The third quarter performance report presented to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police earlier this year by the South African Police Service (SAPS) for the financial year 2019/20, revealed that by the third quarter SAPS had only finalised 62% of case exhibits within the required 90 day period. The processing of DNA case exhibits is measured against a target which requires 80% of all case exhibits to be finalised within 90 days.

This 62% amounts to only 27 801 out of 44 253 case exhibits processed within 90 days which means that by the end of the third quarter 16 452 were not processed timeously. SAPS is yet to present their fourth quarter report to Parliament, however I am reliably informed that the situation has worsened and that the backlog has now exploded to nearly 100 000 DNA case exhibits which have not been finalised.

Given the urgency of the situation I have written to President Cyril Ramaphosa calling on him to intervene where the Minister of Police has failed and address this issue which has left thousands of GBV victims stranded without justice.

Please see letter here 

Without a fully functioning DNA testing capability at our NFSL, perpetrators of the most horrific crimes cannot be brought to book and tackling GBV will remain yet another unfulfilled Presidential promise.

Last week, I was informed that the family of a 5 year old girl who was brutally raped and murdered, allegedly by a man who was out on bail for rape, were told by the prosecutor that the reason the suspect had not been arrested was because there was no reagent at the labs to perform the DNA testing required to link him to the crime.

Upon investigation the DA can reveal that there is in fact a critical shortage of reagent and other consumables which is leading to an increased back log at the labs.

It is clear from these shocking results that mismanagement and budget constraints imposed in the 2019 mid term budget have had a devastating impact on the procurement of the basic consumables required to perform DNA tests critical to the prosecution of rapists and murderers.

The DA has repeatedly raised the alarm on the challenges relating to DNA testing and asked numerous questions in the committee about the NFSL. I have demanded that the Minister bring the draft Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Bill to Parliament in order to rectify a nearly 4 year backlog in obtaining DNA samples from schedule 8 offenders before they leave prison.

Last year, in our fight against GBV, the DA exposed the critical shortage of rape kits across the country and this year we are now faced with a crisis of DNA testing which affects what we estimate to be tens of thousands of GBV victims among others.

The DA will continue to expose the failings of the ANC government which continues to pay lip service to GBV.

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