In short order, the country will get a forensic lab albeit in a temporary location.
For years there have been calls for a lab of this nature due to the long wait the police encounter with having to send evidence overseas for analysis.
Progress is being made toward the establishment of the country’s first forensic lab.
Public Safety Minister Steadroy Benjamin, who announced a few weeks ago that the lab could be established this month, says that the lab will open at a temporary location at Coolidge.
He could not give a definite timeline but said it will be established but said that it will happen soon because preparations are going “very very well.”
Benjamin says however that after passing legislation, the government will move to establish a brand-new facility.
He disclosed that he has met with persons “who understand our plight” who will be assisting in the building of a state-of-the-art facility which he likened to that which is in St. Kitts.
The court system has suffered for quite some time because of the absence of a forensic lab.
In 2020, La Toya Lake-Marshall – who was a local police officer for almost 18 years at the time, and acted as an expert forensic crime-scene specialist and criminologist for some time – shared some of the challenges she experienced working in the forensic department.
She said: “Basically, we’re going to court and winning cases on circumstantial evidence, as opposed to having certain things tested to back and strengthen that case. So, the challenge which we are faced with is that enough was not being injected into the forensic department, in a sense of supplies, how we function, and where we are located. As you know, we were located at the St. John’s Police Station where, at that time, when I was there, it was not conducive for us to function in a proper environment; we needed to be relocated.”
She added that they also “didn’t have a proper storage facility at the time. Lack of air-conditioning units for a while,” which caused exhibits to degrade.
Lake-Marshall who moved on to head the forensic department in St. Kitts also disclosed that samples would sit for a long period of time and “by the time the case comes up in court, nothing would have gone to be tested.”
According to her, circumstantial evidence did a lot of heavy lifting in criminal proceedings.
Her experience underscores the importance of the lab.