South African Police Service on new DNA technology for Forensic ScienceLaboratory

6 Sep 2006
South African Police Service Forensic Science Laboratory's new
DNA technology a world first

6 September 2006

Revolutionary technology which has been installed and tested is now being
implemented at the South African Police Service's Forensic Science Laboratory
(FSL) in Pretoria will quadruple the laboratory's capacity to process DNA

Previously, approximately two hundred samples were processed per day
manually, but the implementation of the automated Genetic Sample Processing
System (GSPS) will ensure that eight hundred samples can be loaded into the
robotic computerised system daily.

The GSPS which occupies 47 metres in the Biology Unit of the laboratory is
unique in that it is the only one of its kind in the world. "This robotic
system is a groundbreaking blend of engineering and science and is positive
proof of police management's commitment to developing and procuring all the
tools that are necessary to assist in the fight against crime," said Divisional
Commissioner Piet du Toit, the head of Criminal Record and Forensic Science

The main purpose of the GSPS is to improve the police's capacity to process
DNA samples as once samples are fed into the system by analysts, the robotic
features of the system feed the samples through several processes which
previously had to be done by a series of individuals. In general it takes
approximately ninety days to process all cases from the time of receipt of the
exhibit from which DNA must be extracted to the time that a final report is
available for court purposes. This turnaround time can be expedited in urgent

A common misperception about the police's Forensic Science Laboratory is
that there is a "backlog" of thousands of cases which are waiting processing.
All exhibits from criminal cases and crime scenes which may contain DNA are
delivered to the Forensic Science Laboratory, registered as a case and
allocated with a number. Some are processed but many are archived as suspects
have not as yet been arrested or there are no samples with which to make a
comparison. Once a suspect is identified the prosecutor who is the best person
to make such a decision will request the FSL to "activate" the case and
comparison samples will be provided.

DNA analysis and cross-referencing will then take place. As soon as the
prosecutor and investigating officer provides the laboratory with a court date
the process will be expedited. Obviously this entails efficient communication
between investigating officers, prosecutors and the laboratory and methods of
improving cooperation are continuously discussed within the SAPS and with other

In effect there are indeed thousands of samples in the archive. This does
not constitute a backlog, but are cases that can be activated for DNA
comparisons once arrests have been made and/or the prosecutor decides that DNA
will be of evidential value in a trial. Cases also accumulate in the archives
as they are retained for up to twenty years.

Since 1 April 2006 to date, DNA analysis in over two thousand cases has
taken place. Obviously the full implementation of the GSPS will contribute
considerably to this process. The Biology Unit of the FSL is now situated in
new premises as the old Andrew McColm Hospital building in Pretoria was
acquired by the South African Police Service and is being renovated to suit the
requirements of the Forensic Science Laboratory and to house the new

Enquiries: Director Sally de Beer
Tel: (012) 393 1574
Cell: 082 779 8658
Fax: (012) 393 2165

Issued by: South African Police Service
6 September 2006
Source: South African Police Service (