The chaos at the Forensic Science Lab means no DNA tests were conducted for two months, and scores of rapists could walk free because of it.
Revelations that up to eight million pieces of forensic evidence have been lost by the police, with the Forensic Science Laboratory having a backlog of 172 787 DNA tests – including for rape cases – has left activists and experts shocked.
Weekend media reports indicated that eight million pieces of forensic evidence have been lost by the police due to a dodgy IT contract.
The IT facility storing crucial evidence records, including DNA samples and crucial pieces of evidence used in gender-based violence cases, has seemingly gone offline.
ALSO READ: SAPS fail to account to parliament on DNA testing backlog
Recent crime statistics indicated a 5% increase in sexual offences, with 12 218 people raped between October and December last year.
The chaos at the lab – where dysfunctional contract management led to no DNA test conducted in January and February – mean rape cases could be thrown out of court for lack of evidence.
According to the Democratic Alliance, which intends lodging a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission, alarm bells rang back in 2019 when the backlog was less than 100 000.
Pressure group Action Society is concerned this will bring the justice system to its knees as hundreds of thousands of criminals are roaming free, probably reoffending, due to DNA evidence not being able to be presented in court.
“We are known as the rape capital of the world and this is why rapists walk free to haunt their victims and rape more women…” activist Themba Masango said.
“This makes me really angry – and heads must definitely roll.”
With no progress, the group lamented that since reporting its turnaround strategy to the Committee in November 2020 Action Society is concerned that thousands of pending rape cases will never be submitted to court because of the compounding backlog at laboratories.
Criminal law attorney Ulrich Roux said the backlog was an injustice to victims and perpetrators. He said it was unfortunate that if a crime, such a rape, was committed and the only reason the alleged perpetrator was not
prosecuted because of inability to process DNA evidence.
“It leads to cases being prolonged, unreasonably so, and our court roll congested with pending matters,” said Roux.
“Every accused has a right to a fair and speedy trial but as a result of police incompetence, that right is infringed upon, then you can very well see charges being dropped and the matter struck off the roll.”
Roux said this was the case with drunken driving cases that are piling up because there were no test results proving whether the diver was drunk or not.
Police minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Temba, said the minister has referred the matter to police commissioner General Khehla Sitole, whose job is on the line as President Cyril Ramaphosa considers mounting calls for his axing.
ALSO READ: Ramaphosa mulls police commissioner Khehla Sitole probe
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