Forensic Lab gets $93M equipment for DNA, ballistic testing

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Almost five years since Guyana’s first forensic laboratory was commissioned, it has launched its first DNA testing capability for human identification along with ballistic testing.

Speaking at the ceremony on Wednesday at the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory’s building located at Sophia, Greater Georgetown, Director of the Laboratory, Delon France said after many years of testing under the shadows of international agencies, the lab is now equipped to do its own work.

“With this recent development, the laboratory is now a national pioneer for human identification using DNA testing,” he said.

France outlined that the forensic science laboratory can now test for three main things:

-DNA testing for comparison or matching evidence to suspect

-Paternity testing to identify the father of children

– and family mapping or family testing

Rapid (deoxyribonucleic acid) DNA Analysis Testing Machine commissioned by Minister Ramjattan and the Director of the Lab and other officials

As it relates to family mapping, the Director said the investigators “can use the family DNA to identify a suspect even if you don’t have that particular suspect’s name.”

“So we can match a crime scene to a family and then we can narrow it down through investigation to who actually commit the crime,” he added.

The new capabilities were made possible with the commissioning of a Rapid (deoxyribonucleic acid) DNA Analysis Testing Machine and an Automated Gunshot Residue Analysis Machine under the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP).

The equipment was donated at a cost of US$465,000 by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Government.

The Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said the equipment is “enough to stun Sherlock Holmes, that fictional forerunner of today’s policemen.”

He was referring to a fictional private detective who is known for his proficiency with observation, forensic science and logical reasoning.

“I believe this period in Guyana’s history will be remarkable for its movement away the rudimentary methods in scientific detention to a truly systematic scientific footing,” the Minister said adding that “police today will employ DNA, spectrograph, blood grouping, ballistic marking and so many other tools to identify that which we cannot see and to analyse that which we can see.”

He said the DNA testing is needed in Guyana to solve a number of cases such as murder and rape.

Minister Ramjattan said this initiative will also save the Government significant sums of money as sending DNA samples for testing overseas was very costly and timely.

Chief of Operations at the Inter-American Development Bank, Lorena Solorzan told those gathered that the equipment will bolster the ability to analyze and report physical evidence in criminal cases.

“The strengthening of criminal justice institution is essential to safeguarding the rule of law, improving public confidence in criminal justice outcomes and facilitating national development,” she said.

There are also plans to implement a DNA Record Database at the forensic lab.

The Forensic Laboratory was constructed at a cost of $1.4B in 2014.

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