Director Said To Have Resigned, Facility Closed.
A warning has been issued to the government to address certain issues at the Forensic Lab immediately which if not done could put the entire future of the institution in jeopardy.
The warning comes from the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Gale Rigobert who says that allegations of serious security breaches at the $6 million facility at Tapion have reached her and that this could very well determine the innocence or guilt of someone whose fate depends on the accuracy of results coming from the lab.
The five year old facility has been dogged by controversy since its opening.
There have been allegations of security breaches for some time now. However, within the last two weeks the situation took a turn for the worst resulting in the closure of the lab and the resignation of its Director.
Rigobert wants the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, Victor Phillip La Corbiniere to address Saint Lucians on the matter.
“Word reaching me suggests that there have been serious security breaches at the forensic lab warranting an investigation and an audit of what has been taking place there. The director has resigned. I do not want to make assumptions as to why the director has resigned but I am well aware that one of her main concerns for a long while has been the inadequate security at the lab,” Rigobert told The VOICE.
The lab, which was opened in December 2009 with Governor General Dame PearletteLouisy performing the symbolic ribbon cutting was said to be an investment that would earn the country some revenue since it would serve the countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
The lab was seen then as an important facility that would assist in keeping crime down and as a preventative measure in the fight against crime.
Back then it was thought that having a forensic science laboratory would greatly boost public expectations that more criminals would be brought to justice with the various testings that would take place there for drug and murder cases.
In fact, police officers say they have been hampered in their investigations into certain criminal acts by the lack of a forensic lab not only for DNA testing, but for other testing that could go a long way in clinching a decisive victory for them in a criminal court.
In calling for someone in authority to look into the allegations of security breaches at the lab, Rigobert notes that there are people charged with a crime whose innocence or guilt is dependent on the activities of the lab.
“So we cannot let suspicions and rumours run wild without an authoritative figure giving a definite and comprehensive statement on the state of affairs at the forensic lab. That is too important an issue to leave to speculation or rumour,” she said.
She added: “Why has it taken this long for the Minister responsible for Home Affairs and National Security, Senator Victor La Corbinierre to address the public on this matter. The public needs to know why wasn’t a more stringent and rigorous security system implemented, notwithstanding the incessant complaints and requests for additional security by the former Director and given the sensitivity of the samples stored at the Lab? And why have there been expressions of grave discomfort with respect to storing critical evidence.”
The Opposition Leader wants to know whether It’s true that evidence stored at the lab, including illicit substances sent in for testing have changed in composition and volume overnight and whether a foreign entity had been commissioned to investigate the operations of the lab, and if so who is that person or agency. Further, whether there are plans to install new management given the resignation of the Director and whether the lab had been shut down by the government and why.
Rigobert is of the view that if the situation at the lab is not addressed by the government then doubt can be cast on the credibility of the operations of the lab which could put the entire future of the institution in jeopardy.