Evidence Amendment Bill passed

The Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2021, has been passed with alterations during the 32nd sitting of the National Assembly of the Twelfth Parliament, on Monday.

The Bill, which was presented by Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, M.P, amends Section 42 of the Evidence Act, Chapter 5:03, to better provide for the role of the officers of the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory and other analysts when required to provide evidence in matters before the courts.

Minister Benn said Clause 2 of the Bill seeks to modify Section 43 of the Principal Act to include the report of an ‘evidence officer’ as receivable by the court.

He said the clause also amends subsection (4) to expand the list of objects that can be examined by an analyst to include ‘hair.’

Additionally, amendments were also made to make receivable as evidence certificates or laboratory examination forms issued by the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory or any other accredited forensic science laboratory, as prescribed by the minister, by order, after consultation with the Director of the Forensic Science laboratory.

Further, subsection (5) was amended to include a ‘science officer of the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory’ and to remove ‘scientific officer of the Guyana Police Force.’ while, there was the insertion of subsection (6) to include the definition of an ‘evidence officer.’

“The Evidence Act has some weakness in relation to chain and custody…and so, we propose the insertions of appropriate language to make the legislation more secure so people could proceed with proper handling of evidence,” Minister Benn said.

He reiterated that the intention is to tighten the legislation, taking into account the appropriate use of the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory so that issues relating to crime, and evidence relating could be dealt with aptly at the level of the courts.

Supporting the Bill was Government Member of Parliament, Sanjeev Datadin, who noted that the forensic laboratory was established in keeping with an evolving legislative framework to meet the needs of the country.

The laboratory, he said, is mandated to perform certain duties. However, in order to perform those duties, the personnel must be authorised to do so in accordance with the legislation.

Simultaneously, as science advances and technology improves, changes must be made to the legislation.  Therefore, the amended legislation is timely and must be commended.

Following the one-hour debate, the Bill was passed with support from the Parliamentary Opposition.