Guyana ready for DNA testing in crime fighting

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Guyana’s security sector is now equipped to conduct human identification using DNA analysis, following the commissioning of a DNA identification equipment at the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory (GFSL) earlier today.

Through support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the GFSL can now offer to test in DNA direct comparison or matching evidence to criminal suspects, paternity and family mapping.

Testing samples include semen, vaginal, hair with root, blood and touch DNA.

The equipment can run eight samples at once in less than two hours, allowing for a fast turnaround and improved investigation rate and closure in matters requiring DNA analysis.

Another equipment, the Scanning Electron Microscope, also called Phenom XL or Phenom GSR, was introduced to Guyana for the first time. This will be used for gunshot residue testing. The equipment can also do testing on glass, paint and other elements, through comparative analysis on evidence collected from crime scenes that are non-DNA in nature. The equipment can identify and confirm the presence of GSR particles and can compare structure in evidential specimens. Together, the two-equipment cost $97M.

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan said this period in Guyana’s history will be remarkable for its movement away from the simple methods in scientific detection. He said DNA remains a valuable crime-fighting tool.

“DNA testing is needed in Guyana because it serves as the investigative tool and identifies the perpetrator; it will also resolve a number of cases that are now unresolved. Cases such as murder, rape and body parts found and kept.”

The minister said the security sector has been faced with financial challenges sending samples overseas for testing. Time has also been a challenge for the sector.

“With this new equipment, both the time and cost will be reduced significantly,” he promised, reporting that a cost per test will be only $60,000.

Director of the Guyana Forensic Lab, Delon France said with such advancements, criminal and forensic investigation has moved up another level and will bring adjudication to more criminal cases over time.

“As the only forensic laboratory in Guyana, we will continue to advance our skills and technology… as we collaborate under various treaties to combat national and international crimes.”

Two staff members of the GFSL have already been trained in DNA analysis.

Commissioned back in 2014, the Forensic Science Laboratory was fitted with four analytical departments; the toxicology, documents trace evidence and chemistry and six non-analytical departments. However, it was until February 2017 that the testing of samples from law enforcement agencies began.

Images: Abike Barker