Star women fight for DNA labs

We love stories about solutions so we thought we’d share this gem from City Press about two women pioneers in forensic science.

In 2004, Vanessa Lynch’s father was brutally murdered. The perpetrators could not be arrested because of the lack of evidence at the crime scene. 

Carolyn Hancock, a forensic geneticist, heard Lynch’s story on Carte Blanche. She reached out to Lynch, a former commercial lawyer, and the two set out to help the criminal justice system through science. 

In 2009, they developed a postgraduate course that is the first of its kind in Africa, preparing scientists to work in labs on DNA evidence. 

Lynch and Hancock also spearheaded the so-called DNA Act, and in 2015 the law made it mandatory for police to collect forensic DNA profiles from convicted criminals and those arrested for serious crimes.

It’s a crucial development for our justice system, especially considering that many criminals are repeat offenders. Many unrelated offences have been solved thanks to the growing database. The two also answered privacy concerns, saying the system does not collect the parts of the DNA “which make us who we are” – our genes. Plus, if a person is found innocent, their DNA is removed from the database. 

Today SA has two of the best DNA laboratories in the world. But there is much to be done still. Government departments need better collaboration with forensic laboratories, and there’s a hefty testing backlog. Thankfully more money is being funnelled into funding this crucial system. 👍

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 15 April 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.