SAPS on Natural Scientific Bill

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


3 June 2003

Mr D Kgware

Documents handed out:
South African Police Services on National Scientific Professions Bill (Appendix 1)
Natural Scientific Professions Bill [B56B-2002]
Development: Question Document Unit (Appendix 2)

Unfortunately, PMG was unable to cover this meeting. However, all the documentation pertaining to the meeting is attached below.

Appendix 1
The South African Police Service kindly request the Education and Recreation Select Committee to give the Service an opportunity to address the Committee on the impact of the Natural Scientific Professions Bill [B56B - 2002]. The concerns expressed in this document have, in principle been discussed with and conveyed to Prof. Marais, who is currently on the Council for the Natural Scientists, during March 2003.

The impact on the Forensic Science Laboratory of the South African Police Service are as follows:

The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) of the South African Police Service (SAPS) provides a forensic science service to the Detectives of the SAPS. The disciplines of the FSL include chemistry, biology, questioned documents, metallurgy, electronics and geology. The Criminal Record Centre (CRC)/Local Criminal Record Centres (LCRC) are responsible for the collection and examination of evidential material for fingerprints. At the FSL, evidential material is examined by a number of scientific processes and various deductions can be made from the results of such analyses. Each scientist/analyst/examiner then issues a sworn affidavit in terms of section 212 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No 51 of 1977). These affidavits comply with the standard requirements of an affidavit. This can be summed up that the deponent has personal knowledge of the contents of the affidavit and understands those contents.

Forensic Science (See Schedule 1)

A definition of forensic science is a problematic issue. In general, the definition would be the provision of scientific evidence to courts of law. The following is an extract from the introduction of the "Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences" (J A Siegel, editor in Chief, Academic Press, 2000):

"There are those who say that there really is no such thing as 'forensic science'; that instead, it is a collection of scientific techniques that are begged and borrowed from 'real' sciences such as chemistry, biology, physics, medicine and mathematics. Other have suggested that the 'sciences' of fingerprints, firearms and toolmarks and questioned documents are the only real forensic sciences, and all the rest of it are on loan from the classical hard sciences. There is some truth to both of these definitions."

It will be proposed that forensic science for the purposes of the Bill is defined as:

"the application of scientific principles to physical evidence for the purposes of the administration of justice in the fields as defined in section 212(4)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Act (Act 51 of 1977)".

These fields are:

    • biology
    • chemistry
    • physics
    • astronomy
    • geography
    • geology
    • mathematics
    • applied mathematics
    • mathematical statistics
    • analysis of statistics
    • computer science
    • any discipline of engineering
    • anatomy
    • human behavioural sciences
    • biochemistry
    • metallurgy
    • microscopy
    • any branch of pathology
    • toxicology
    • ballistics
    • identification of finger prints or palm-prints
    • examination of disputed documents

Some of the requirements of the Natural Scientific Professions Bill [B56B-2002] which impact on the FSL are as follows:

3.1 Clause 18 page 7 line 54 and page 8 line 1-2:

(2) A person may not practise in any of the fields of practice listed in Schedule I, unless he or she is registered in a category mentioned in subsection (1)."

3.2 Clause 19 page 8 line 3-4

"Fields of practice in natural scientific professions

19. (1) The fields of practice in the natural sciences are listed in Schedule I."

3.3 Schedule 1 page 17:



Agricultural Science

Animal Science

Biological Science

Botanical Science

Chemical Science

Earth Science

Ecological Science

Environmental Science

Food Science

Forensic Science

Forestry Science

Geographical Science

Geological Science

Hydrological Science

Industrial Science

Marine Science

Materials Science

Mathematical Science

Mathematics Education Science

Metallurgical Science

Microbiological Science

Natural Science

Education Science

Physical Science

Radiation Science

Water Care Science

Zoological Science"

3.4 Clause 20 page 8 line 12:

20. (1) Only a registered person may practice in a consulting capacity."

3.5 Clause 22 page 9 line 30-32 - :

(2) A certificated natural scientist or candidate natural scientist (a) may only perform work in the natural scientific professions under the supervision and control of a professional natural scientist;

3.6 Clause 27 page 10 line 41 -43:

(3) A person who is not registered in terms of this Act, may not-

      1. perform any kind of work identified for any category of registered persons in terms of this section;

3.7 Clause 27 page 10 line 50 - 54:

(4) Subsection (3)(a) may not be construed as prohibiting any person from performing work identified in terms of this section, if such work is performed in the service of or by order of and under the direction, control, supervision of or in association with a registered person entitled to perform the identified work and who must assume responsibility for any work so performed."

3.8 Clause 43 page 16 line 15:

43. This Act binds the State. "

  1. The educational qualifications for registration under this Bill are unclear. It has been stated during the consultation with Professor Marais that a person will require a four year tertiary qualification to be registered as a professional natural scientist. If a person possesses a three year tertiary qualification then they could register either as a candidate natural scientist (if undergoing relevant further studies) or as certificated natural scientist (clause 18 and 20).
  2. A requirement of clause 22 is that a certificated natural scientist or candidate natural scientist may only perform work in the natural scientific professions under the supervision and control of a professional natural scientist.
  3. The FSL employs a large number of scientists. This includes persons with three year, four year and further qualifications. It also has a large number of persons who do not have any tertiary qualification and yet perform scientific examinations and also present expert evidence in court in this regard. Areas specifically affected by this are the ballistics, questioned document and finger prints. In these disciplines there are no tertiary qualifications available at any tertiary institution in South Africa. These disciplines fall squarely within the defined field of practice : Forensic Science (Schedule 1) (See also par 2).
  4. The impact of clause 22 is that the examiners in these areas would have to work under the "supervision and control" of a professional registered scientist who is not qualified within these fields. The examiner himself would have to issue the report in terms of section 212 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No 51 of 1977), but clause 18(2) of the Bill states that a person may not practise in any of the fields of practice listed in Schedule I, unless he or she is registered in a category mentioned in clause 18(1). Equally, clause 27(4) states that although clause (27)(3)(a) must not be construed as prohibiting any person from performing work identified in terms of the clause. If, however, such work is performed in the service of or by order of and under the direction, control, supervision of or in association with a registered person entitled to perform the identified work and who must assume responsibility for any work so performed. The assumption of such responsibility will definitely be at odds for the issuing of a section 212 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No 51 of 1977) statement.
  5. The Forensic Science Laboratory consists of a main Laboratory in Pretoria and three regional Laboratories in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Amanzimtoti. The FSL is also responsible for administration of the Explosives act and Bomb Disposal via the Explosives Unit.
  6. The main units of the FSL are the Ballistics, Questioned Documents, Biology, Scientific Analysis and Chemistry Units. The Laboratory receives more than 130000 casework entries per annum and these cover exhibit types such as firearms, counterfeit notes, drugs, body fluids (for DNA analysis), fibres and precious metals. There are other functions such as photography, facial reconstruction, polygraph examinations and voice comparisons.

    The scientists attached to the FSL are exposed to various training programs. The nature of duration of these programs are determined by the field in which they specialise. The programs can range from 6 months to 3 years. Upon completion of training they all need to successfully complete a relevant competency test before they can be authorised to commence casework.

  7. The final implication of this would be the inability of any person to practice in these fields. The impact of this in the Justice system will be catastrophic.
  8. A similar situation exists for scientists with a three year qualifications such as a chemist see par 6.
  9. The implementation of this Bill would result in the near closure of the FSL with the accompanying ramifications.
  10. There would also be the resultant financial expense for the state since all scientists would have to be registered and the costs covered by the state.
  11. The only suitable recommendation, in view of the minutes of the Portfolio Committee which was addressed by Prof Crewe on 25 February 2003, is to register professionals who wish to practise in the private sector and to exclude persons in the public sector from this Bill and make it not applicable to FSL & CRC/LCRC of the SAPS.
  12. The following amendment to the Bill is suggested:

On page 16 line 15 to omit "this Act binds the State" and substitute it with:

"This Act does not bind professionals in the public sector"

15. Profiles of what is expected of members working in the Ballistic Unit as well as the Questionable Document Unit is attached as support for the abovementioned representation.

16. It is trusted that this urgent request will meet your favourable consideration.



Appendix 2

1. The Unit was established in 1933 with one member handling ±15 cases per year with the minimum of equipment. As the Unit developed it acquired the equipment needed to perform the most complicated scientific analysis of documents.

2. At the moment the Unit consists of 14 qualified members who performed ±7000 cases of the most diverse examinations during 2002. Training is based on a three-year internal curriculum. Most members also attained the Advanced Certificate in Criminalistics developed and presented by UNISA, which is specifically directed to the examination of questioned documents.

3. The equipment used is of the most sophisticated in the world such as the GCMS, FTIR, etc.


  1. Most of the qualified experts were recruited from the S A Police Service with no formal qualification in science. These members were subjected to an intensive in-service training program for a period of three years in which all aspects of the examination of questioned documents were taught.
  2. In recent years the recruiting process for the Unit concentrated on obtaining members with science degrees. Twelve members under training have degrees in science, but due to the specialised nature of work performed in the examination of questioned documents which are not covered in any science curriculum, these members still have to undergo the full training course as set out in the curriculum below.
  3. Outside institutions such as the S A Printing College, the S A Banknote Company, SAPPI, Perkin-Elmer, etc. are also utilised for advanced training which all members attend.
  4. Due to the advanced instrumentation used all members are intensively trained in the scientific principles underlying the methodology and the practical application thereof in the examination process.
  5. An Advanced Program in Forensic Criminalistics was developed in conjunction with the University of South Africa which was specifically directed towards the examination of questioned documents and all experts attained this qualification prior to it being discontinued in 1999. This qualification was submitted for recognition and attained a RVQ 13 status.



1.1 Document and questioned document

1.2 The examiner of questioned documents

1.3 Specimens

1.4 Instruments used

1.5 The scientific examination of documents

1.6 Probability of accidental coincidence

1.7 The opinion

1.8 Scope of document examinations

1.9 Definition of terms


2.1 Illumination apparatus

2.2 Photographic apparatus

2.3 Chemicals used

2.4 Optical instruments

2.5 Measuring apparatus

2.6 Ultra-violet

2.7 Video Spectral Comparator infrared apparatus

2.7 Electrostatic detection apparatus

2.8 Thin Layer Chromatography

2.8 Gas Chromatography

2.9 High Performance Liquid Chromatography

2.10 Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy

2.11 Capillary Electrophoresis

2.11 Raman Spectroscopy

2.12 Image analysis & enhancement


3.1 Writing instruments

3.2 Paper

3.3 Ink

3.5 Laminates & plastics

3.4 Adhesives

3.5 Copying processes

3.6 Printing processes

3.7 Stamped impressions

3.8 Correcting fluids

3.9 Carbon paper


4.1 Erasures

4.2 Interlineation and added material

4.2 Alterations

4.4 Obliterations

4.5 Fraud by copy machine

4.6 Sequence of writing

4.7 Proof of guineness


5.1 Damage by water

5.2 Faded writing

5.3 Stained documents

5.4 Torn documents

5.5 Charred documents


6.1 Fingerprints on documents

6.2 Indentations

6.3 Foreign traces


7.1 Form and quality

7.2 Pen-position, pen-pressure and shading

7.3 Arrangement, size, spacing, slant and relative size

7.4 Variation

7.5 Writing systems, class and individual characteristics

7.6 Identification in a practical situation

7.7 Nonidentity of writings

7.8 Disguise


8.1 Proof of genuineness

8.2 Forgery

8.3 Forgery of a holographic document

8.4 Identifying the forger

8.5 Initials and the marks of illiterates


9.1 Identification of typewriting

9.2 Single element machines

9.3 Typewriter ribbons

9.4 Electronic machines, dot-matrix printers, laser-printers, fax-machines and ink jet printing

9.5 Forgery and disguise of typescript

9.6 Identifying the operator


10.1 Dating by the materials used

10.2 Dating techniques


11.1 Collective specimens

11.2 Requested specimens

11.3 Typewriting specimens


12.1 Preparation for trial

12.2 Giving evidence

12.3 Cross-examination


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