A group of Ghanaian forensic science researchers are pushing for the government to de-couple the country’s Police forensic laboratory from the direct command of the Ghana Police Service.
They contend that making the police forensic laboratory independent of the police administration, will ensure compliance with international standards, effective operation of the lab, and enhance public confidence in the application of forensic science in Ghana.
The current system, according to Aaron O. Amankwaaa, Emmanuel N. Amoakoa, Dan Osei Mensah Bonsu and Moses Banyeh, presents potential bias and risks of miscarriage of justice.
“An independent forensic governance approach through the creation of an independent forensic institution or through the leadership of an independent regulator or board is recommended,” the group said in a review paper publish in the Forensic Science International.
The use of forensic science continues to grow across the world. In Ghana, major advancement took off in 2011 with the introduction of modern DNA profiling and the establishment of an automated fingerprint identification system.
For the forensic scientists, an independent forensic system will “prevent the potential risk of bias in the current police-led framework of governance”
It will also ensure discipline and priority for forensic needs, budgetary allocation and generation of funds, they added.
The calls by families of the kidnapped Takoradi girls for an independent forensic DNA test to determine the identities of the human remains retrieved from the home of the key suspect in the case Friday night, the forensic scientists said, reinforces their stand.
The Police said the body parts, which many suspect to be that of the three kidnapped girls, will be taken sent for forensic laboratory test.
But the families said if the police were convinced what they had found was a good lead to unravelling the mysteries surrounding the missing girls, the DNA and forensic investigations should be conducted in independent laboratories and not that of the police.
These developments, the forensic experts indicated, highlight an urgent need for a policy review in the practice of forensic science in Ghana.
They want policymakers to consider best practice from other countries and implement appropriate legislation to govern the use of DNA, fingerprints and other biometrics.
“This is relevant because the police have already begun creating forensic information databases. To prevent miscarriages of justice, it is highly recommended that policymakers and relevant stakeholders codify the admissibility tests for expert opinion evidence by drawing from international best practice,” the group advised.
Forensic service provision
Also, the experts want clear guidance on terms of service provision for Police forensic science laboratory and other forensic users drafted.
“A national policy on forensics should include appropriate funding and resourcing arrangements to sustain the forensic market. This may include public-private partnerships and national-regional grant schemes or collaborations to address resource and funding needs,” they advocated.
For them, a decentralised model of service provision should also be developed to ensure the timely deployment of forensic services across the regions of Ghana.
Meanwhile the group noted that lack of accreditation and regulatory bodies to oversee the quality of forensic science provision poses a risk to justice.
In view of that, they want a national forensic quality policy to be developed to adopt ISO 17025 and ISO 17020 for forensic service providers.
“This should be supported by the Ghana Standards Authority”.
They also want an evaluative programme to be established under an appropriate governing body to monitor and report on the impact and effectiveness of forensic science in the legal system.
“This will ensure that key challenges/issues are identified and resolved. Further, such information may enhance public support for the application of science in the legal system,” they contended.
The researchers have also proposed the development of existing degree programmes into internationally acceptable standards, an accreditation model led by a forensic society (such as the FSSGH).
Also, the curriculum for forensic degree programmes should integrate close partnership and interaction with practitioners, forensic service providers and international higher education institutions, it recommended.
For them, a national policy on forensic science should include a research framework that coordinates all forensic research activities in the country.
“A Forensic Science Research Institute (FSRI) may be created for this purpose with a focus on addressing research gaps in industry or practice,” the researchers advised.