UG to train, provide forensic artists to help identify perpetrators

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The University of Guyana will provide Forensic Artists to the Guyana Police Force (GPF), which will aid with their investigations, particularly in cases relating to children and adolescents.

The initiative, aided by UNICEF, was launched last Friday in Blossom Inc – a Non-Governmental Organisation.

Forensic art is an artistic technique used by law enforcement for identification, apprehension or conviction purposes and is a key component of the response to violence against children in Guyana, UNICEF said in a statement.

“The collaboration will focus on ensuring that there is a consistent skill set to engage with the GPF and other agencies that work on the frontlines of child protection violations,” the UN agency posited.

It noted that while Guyana has made strides in preventing and responding to all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse, there is still significant work to be done to ensure that every child is protected and have access to transformative justice.

“Particularly, for sexual abuse and related cases where children are removed from their primary caregivers, there remains a need to ensure that a medium exists to aid in investigation and reporting of the cases,” UNICEF Country Representative Sylvie Fouet said, according to the statement.

The Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) on July 10 reported that there were 1,250 reports of child abuse from January to May this year of which there were 315 reports of child sexual abuse.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Paloma Mohamed-Martin said the partnership offers the University’s creative Arts Faculty, students and alumni, an extension of the extend their talents to an area of forensic specialization which is not well developed in Guyana.

“This programme will help to give a diversified profile and fillip to the Visual Arts Department of our Faculty of Education and Humanities. Needless to say, UG is the people’s University, so anything we can do that helps us fulfill the mandate of making life better for Guyanese, we will within our means most certainly, do,” she added.

There are plans on stream for next year to support the development of a specialized course of forensic art since such expertise can contribute to composite drawing, crime scene sketching and image identification, among other things.

Ayodele Dalgety-Dean of Blossom Inc. pointed out that many times it is hard to find alleged perpetrators in child sexual abuse cases in regions One, Two, Seven and Ten since they would disappear into the interior. She said support is needed to help jog memories of persons they may have come into contact with.

Commissioner of Police Leslie James in a brief comment welcomed the initiative which he said will improve the Force’s work.

“Innovation and investment in the use of local talent and expertise will carry our work forward,” James said.

Expertise that can be provided by forensic artists include:

  • Composite Drawing will help investigators generate leads based on physical descriptions. For example, to assist in cases of child sexual abuse or missing children – including those referred by the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) to Blossom Inc.
  • Image Modification is used to change and enhance a photograph in order to help an investigator and/or trial attorney.
  • Image Identification is the recording of a person’s distinguishing features for future reference. Investigators can use this tool to identify suspects who attempt to change their appearance to evade capture, as well as in the study of cold cases.
  • Crime Scene Sketching helps support the information shown in photographs of the scene.
  • Demonstrative Evidence when any visible, physical evidence is recorded in legal proceedings. These are used to demonstrate aspects of the case, reconstruct an event, and illustrate what happened.

UNICEF said this new initiative complements ongoing investments in specialized Courts for Sexual Offences and Family matters, Child Advocacy Centres, graduate and undergraduate programs in Psychology and Social Work, the Venezuelan migration response and training in the GPF.

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