Big boost to crime fighting – ballistic analysts can now be hired with passage of Firearms Amendment Bill 2021

Firearm analysts who are not licenced to possess a firearm will now be able to work along with the Guyana Police Force (GPF) at the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory, to conduct ballistic tests on arms and ammunition, with the passage of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, Chapter 16:05.

The Bill, which was presented by Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, M.P, was passed in the National Assembly, on Monday with support from the Parliamentary opposition.

The amendment gives forensic analysts working at the Forensic Lab, the authority to possess a firearm in their line of duty without being the bearer of a firearm licence.

Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn

Minister Benn told the House the passage of the Bill will ensure the analysts are not surprise defence in court, with claims that the evidence was compiled illegally by unauthorised persons.

“It is to assure a safe chain of custody in relation to the examining and testing of firearms and ammunition for the work of forensic occupations. We have a forensic laboratory for some time now and we need to ensure that each person is allowed to handle, examine and test firearms and ammunition, as part of an investigation to ensure there are no opportunity for surprises when it comes to examinations in courts.”

The Bill, with the amendment to the Principal Act at Section 20, after Paragraph Eight, now reads, “an analyst of the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory may without a licence, have a firearm or ammunition in their possession during, and for the purpose of executing their duties in the area of ballistic.”

Government Parliamentarian, Sanjeev Datadin told the National Assembly that the Bill allows the hiring of qualified staff to conduct forensic tests on weapons that may have been used in the commissioning of a crime.

Government Parliamentarian, Sanjeev Datadin

Currently, members of the GPF are conducting the ballistic tests of arms and ammunition suspected to have been used illegally.

“They are of course only allowed to handle a firearm in the conduct of their duties. So, it’s not to be taken home, it’s not to go around with. All the Minister is seeking, is to amend the law so that the forensic laboratory can better perform its functions.” The Bill was passed without an opposing vote.