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Jamaica continues to strengthen forensic science services – Caribbean News Global

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By Chris Patterson

KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – The government will continue to strengthen the country’s forensic science services as a vital part of the criminal justice system.

Deputy prime minister and minister of national security, Dr Horace Chang, reiterated the government’s commitment during the Caribbean Association of Forensic Sciences (CAFS) Conference at the AC Marriot Hotel in Kingston, on June 10, said the merging of two entities to create the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine demonstrates the need to provide strong, effective, forensic science and forensic service to the criminal justice system.

“Jamaica has come a long way in strengthening its forensic science service. This Institute has been effectively equipped with the most modern equipment. We are building a modern autopsy suite and we have a high-quality forensic ballistic centre. […]  It’s not only a database for crime but it’s the national DNA database, in addition to which we have put in place the firearm registry… about to get going… not quite yet up and going… but every firearm coming to Jamaica will be given not only the serial number they have but we will do our own serial number here by the FLA (Firearm Licensing Authority), which will mark them,” the minister said, pointing out that the registry will be stored at the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine.

“So, in addition to tracking weapons that are already involved in criminal activities, we will have a database for all legal weapons in Jamaica, including the government weapons that will be at our Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine. We are building it out to become a central database for everything that impacts the criminal justice system,” Dr Chang informed.

Meanwhile, the minister said the autopsy suite is expected to be opened this year. The state-of-the-art facility is expected to bolster the work of the Institute for Forensic Science and Legal Medicine, increase the forensic capacity of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and reduce the backlog of criminal and other cases.

“Later this year when we open the autopsy suite; we will have, indeed, one of the finest institutes in the Caribbean and in this part of the world. Hopefully, we will be available to share knowledge in the Caribbean and also to provide a facility that can provide quality training. We will be working closely with not only colleagues across the Caribbean but with the universities… to ensure that we can begin to develop a pool of individuals in the JCF, and beyond, who are qualified in forensic science and legal medicine.”

Minister Chang added that the strengthening of legislation to support the use of modern science and legal medicine is also critical to providing quality service to the criminal justice system.

Cooperation is critical in building out forensic services in the region, to facilitate the training of key personnel and assist in meeting the demands in the region as part of efforts to deal effectively with the criminal actors that plague the Caribbean region.

President, CAFS, forensic consultant, Royal Police Force, Antigua and Barbuda, Gregory Williams, said the conference aims to explore the latest advancement and best practices in forensic science in the Caribbean and beyond.

In 2014, the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) and the Legal Medicine Unit (LMU) were merged to form the Institute for Forensic Science and Legal Medicine.

The merging of both entities was approved by the cabinet. The FSL has the responsibility of conducting forensic examinations and analyses on all physical evidence submitted by the police and other agencies, while the LMU functions as the Department of Pathology. The Institute operates as an independent investigative entity under the ministry of national security.

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