By Latrishka Thomas
After years of waiting for the promise of having its own forensic laboratory to be fulfilled, the twin islands may finally be able to gather invaluable information needed to investigate and prosecute criminals more efficiently.
In 2020, the government said that it was seeking to ensure that the likelihood of there being any miscarriage of justice was significantly reduced, by establishing said lab.
However, two years later and evidence still has to be sent overseas for analysis – a process which takes months as in the murder case of Customs officer Nigel Christian, which was recently adjourned for the third time because the prosecution has not yet received a report from overseas.
However, during the budget presentation yesterday, Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced that that situation will change this year.
“We recognise that a critical factor in fighting crime and identification of offenders is the effective scrutiny of crime scenes and timely analysis of evidence.
“Currently, we rely on external agencies to analyse certain evidentiary material which can sometimes delay the process of investigations.
“So, to address this, we will improve our capacity to conduct and analyse this material locally by constructing a forensic science laboratory later this year,” he announced.
This comes just about two weeks after Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney made a new call for a state-of-the-art facility to be built.
According to Rodney, the police force having its own forensics lab would help to improve the investigations into some cases as, currently, when samples are sent overseas for analysis, they are not given priority.
But this was not the only pledge made to law enforcement yesterday, as Browne also said that “already the government has provided a military aircraft to the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force and we will provide a 55-foot vessel to the Coast Guard at a cost of US$800,000 by the end of this month”.
He added, “In 2022, we will improve the capacity of the police to ensure the safety and security of citizens and residents by training 50 new police officers. Training has already started and it is expected that a new batch of officers will be ready for full duty by July of 2022.”